correcting USENET misconceptions, Re: spam and porn on this newsgroup

Geoff Steckel gwes at
Fri Jun 6 13:56:33 EST 1997

In article <rmp.272.000D7CAC at>, norm <rmp at> wrote:
>This newsgroup is on the usenet.  That is a democratic free speech
>forum - a modern day miracle manifestation of the principle
>of the free press and speech.

No.  Sorry.

>The spams and rancidity that is creeping in is just the way
>it is.   That is life.

Not if we can help it, and we -can-.

>Ignore it and don't be a prude.

Sorry, no.  These people are wasting -my- time and money.

I'd like to correct an apparent misconception about USENET.
It is not democratic.  It is not free.  It is a delicately balanced
cooperative anarchy.  It is based on the exchange of -privately- owned
communications services.  Even the .gov and .edu sites are exchanging
services paid for out of research and education budgets.

The functioning of USENET is based on agreements between sysadmins.
All USENET traffic (and email in general) costs -someone- money.

The is no authority anywhere which can force a USENET site to
carry -anything-.  Sysadmins have followed a very high ethical
standard in that they do not censor based on content.
However, they do have a primary obligation to ensure that their
users get value for the computer and communication resources spent.

Commercial postings advertising services on discussion groups are
wasting lots of people's money.  These people have a right to
-not- spend money propagating advertisements.

The "porn" problem isn't really content based - 'porn' isn't the
problem: off-topic postings are the problem.  There are agreements
in place between sysadmins which say that postings to newsgroups
must fall inside the charter of the newsgroup.  (alt groups don't
have charters, but have other topic control mechanisms)

Again, the people providing the communications service out of their
own pocket have the right -not- to carry off topic posts.

The current, though painful, way to remove persistent offenders
is to complain politely but firmly to the service provider
(postmaster at and abuse at
Enclose the complete headers of the offending post.
Beware, though, that many posts have forged headers.  The 'path'
line and the 'message-id' line are harder to forge than most.

Use the unix 'nslookup' and 'whois' commands to find out addresses
and phone numbers of service providers and their upstream connections.

All responsible service providers have Acceptable Use Policies
enforceable by termination of services.  These policies explicitly
forbid off-topic postings.

If this is unsuccessful, a note to the service provider's upstream
connection often provides satisfaction.  Beyond that, requesting
=your= sysadmin not to accept posts from the offending site can work.

In the case of Spamford Wallace, so many sites have dropped reciprocity
with Agis (his upstream connection) that many of Agis' customers have
left.  See the net-abuse newsgroups for more information.

    Are there any common spring Agrocybe besides praecox?  I've
    seen a few Agrocybe -probably- praecox but don't know how to further
    differentiate if there are other species.

    geoff steckel

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