Christmas Interruptions (and SPAM)

Peter Murray-Rust peter at
Tue Dec 23 21:09:51 GMT 1997

At 11:17 23/12/97 -0500, Steven R. Newcomb wrote:
>I hope this is the VERY LAST comment on the excrement in our
>mailboxes.  (Sorry, Peter, this needs to be said.  You can't shoulder
>the burden that we must each shoulder ourselves.)
>> ... take immediate
>> action which might well involve us instituting more complex (and therefore
>> costly) procedures.
>No.  As a practical matter, where obnoxious anonymous speech is
>concerned, there are only two choices: respond with counteracting
>speech, or pretend it's not happening and wait for it to stop.

I would like this to be the last public posting on this issue :-) Henry is
away, so I am doing whatever is possible over the holiday period. ***IF YOU

Several people have mailed me privately. I'll make the following points:

(A). The list is mounted, serviced by and (implicitly) funded by Imperial
College. Therefore, whatever members of this list, including Henry and
myself think, we have to abide by the rules and practice of that
organisation. I have spoken with Henry, since I felt that action was
necessary. As a result we have disabled the hypermail server, not least for
reasons in (B).

Henry is NOT sysadm of the list technology. He is therefore bound by what
is possible within their remit - nothing unusual about this - most of us
work that way. My major concern was that offensive mail could be posted to
the hypermail *** and be visible to anyone on the WWW ***. Of course this
could have happened any time during the year, but someone would have been
available to react quickly and delete it (though I personally know that
deleting mail from hypermail is non-trivial).

(B) In the UK (where Imperial, Henry are I are located), such postings *can
be* illegal.  That is why I used the word specifically.

I have sat on our local Police and Community Consultative Committee in
Harrow (London). This is a community of very widespread origins and racial
harassment is taken seriously. If someone were to post such a message
through a letter box it would be investigated by the police with a view to
prosecution if enough strong evidence were available.

If someone were to post such a message in a public electronic place (e.g. a
mailing list) and it reached a UK resident, then I would not be surprised
if an investigation were launched. I would not wish such a message to
remain in public view for any  length of time without taking action.

For the record, there is another mailing list at IC run by Henry which has
suffered the same problem.

I appreciate the concern of the list members. However, PLEASE do not post
to the list, whether or not it is hypermailed. I do not have to explain the
benefit of NOT having these messages visible to unlimited humans and robots.


Peter Murray-Rust, Director Virtual School of Molecular Sciences, domestic
net connection
VSMS, Virtual Hyperglossary

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