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Anonymous Postings to Newsgroups (fwd)

----- Forwarded message from T Bruce Tober <octobersdad@reporters.net> -----

Return-Path: <owner-ukcrypto@maillist.ox.ac.uk>
Message-ID: <eQsCimAOzIQ2EwD8@reporters.net>
Date: Wed, 4 Nov 1998 17:20:14 +0000
To: ukcrypto@maillist.ox.ac.uk
From: T Bruce Tober <octobersdad@reporters.net>
Subject: Anonymous Postings to Newsgroups
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Reply-To: ukcrypto@maillist.ox.ac.uk

The following is forwarded with permission. I'm forwarding it to this
list because if memory serves, there's been discussion of a similar
situation here in the UK.

  ------- Forwarded message follows -------
A debate is raging over on INET-ACCESS about what to do about the problem of
child pornography (and other illegal content) posted to newsgroups.  The
problem seems limited at the moment to the exchange of binary files.

A potential, hypothetical [1] solution is being bandied about to the
following effect (anybody else also on INET-ACCESS, please clarify any
errors in my understanding of the plan):

1.  A private party sets up a registry of pgp-verified signatures to be
attached to binary files.  If you want to send binaries via newsgroups, you

2.  Individual ISPs choose whether or not to subscribe to the service.

3.  If an ISP subscribes, then they will get a newsgroup feed that contains
only binaries with "signatures" attached.

4.  Any post of a binary file to a newsgroup without an attached
verification is cancelled.  If an ISP subscribes to this service, then none
of their customers can post unsigned binaries to any newsgroup; such posts
would be cancelled automatically by the ISP.

One of the apparent "benefits" of this service to the ISP is that it would
lower the downstream bandwidth needed to offer news, on the assumption that
lots of binary files now sent via newsgroups will no longer be sent.

But the main purported "benefit" being touted for ISPs is that it will give
the ISPs at least a "good faith" defense against prosecution for
possession/distribution of illegal child pornography.  And one of the main
side "benefits" being touted is that all binaries on newsgroups would be
traceable by law enforcement, if the plan receives wide acceptance.

ITSM that there are many interesting 1A issues here.  I see the following,
but this is not my specialty:

(1) The effect of the plan will be to suppress plenty of legal binaries
along with illegal.  Does the "private" nature of the plan insulate it from
1A attack?

(2) Does the fact that the plan would be undertaken to make law enforcement
easier (out of "good corporate citizen" motivation) affect the 1A analysis?

(3) Would the answer be different if the plan were adopted by ISPs because
they felt it would lower their exposure to stuff like the NYS AG just did?

On some level, this seems broadly analogous to PICs.  Is that right, or am I
missing something critical?

Any thoughts?

Chris S.

[1] One poster claims to be writing the code necessary to do this; at the
moment it doesn't exist.

tbt -- 
|Bruce Tober, <octobersdad@reporters.net>, <http://www.crecon.demon.co.uk>|
|   Birmingham, UK, EU +44-121-242-3832. Freelance Journalist, & Website  |
|       consultancy and development. PGP key ID material my website       |

----- End forwarded message -----