Changing BIOSCI - My 2 cents worth

Natalie Kim Bjorklund umbjork1 at cc.umanitoba.ca
Thu Mar 9 10:37:07 EST 1995


In article <1995Mar8.210250.8850 at mbcf> heath at mbcf.stjude.org (Richard_Heath) writes:
>Well, Dave K. has asked for the "general reader" to respond to his CFDs on
>moderating and sponsoring the bionet, so here is my 2 cents worth. 

>I am not against moderation per se - 
>
>Question:  How would this affect people who want to use anonymous servers?  I
>don't know much about these things, but do see some posts from @anon.penet.fi.

There was a long and rather disturbing thread on several bionet groups 
started by an annonymous person who wanted directions for preparing and 
unleashing a super virus to sterilize women. This was his solution to the 
problem of overpopulation. I could easily see such a thing turning into 
selective sterilisation of the "wrong" sort of people and not the "right" 
sort who would be given the vaccine against it. While the reality of 
building such a virus is unlikely, (too many difficult practical problems 
to overcome), I was rather disturbed to see many scientists responding to 
this person with many helpful suggestions as if he were a legitimate 
colleague with a straight forward problem.I saw it as being rather like a 
bunch of organic chemists giving an annoynmous e-mail user directions on 
how to build a bomb or a synthetic hallucinogen. If this person were not 
annonymous I wouldn't have worried.It would have been an easy matter to 
alert some appropriate authority to investigate if this guy was really a 
threat or just some harmless nut. But with the protection of annonymity, 
I often wonder if he's out there trying to build his supervirus as we speak. 

Now if someone walked into your lab and said (s)he wanted directions on 
building a bomb or a super virus, I suspect you'd want to ask a lot more 
about him or her before giving out the information. But e-mail is so easy 
and casual, people respond without thinking about who they are responding 
to. Personally I find this disturbing and open to abuse. I don't think it 
is appropriate for annonymous users to be on the bionet. Annonymity serves 
an important function for support groups but the bionet is for professionals 
to exchange information and therefore anyone using it should be prepared to 
use his or her name as well.I would not regard this as being a form of 
censorship.

> >Thanks to all the BIOSCI people for running a very useful service! 
> >Richard.

Agreed.My two cents worth.

Natalie K Bjorklund




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