Pseudonymous lists Re: PR disasters

From: Brian Atkins (
Date: Sun Jun 25 2000 - 10:51:31 MDT

It is an interesting idea, but couldn't anyone serious about wanting
deniability go over to or whatever and use their software
to setup their own pseudonym? And they could use that nym on other lists
too. wrote:
> > I dont know how to deal with deniability of archived posts
> > other than to request a complete version of any quoted post
> > and a request to confirm my authorship. spike
> In the early days of the extropians list, there was a policy that archives
> were not allowed. Each person was expected to agree not to store or
> publish any messages from other participants without their permission.
> I think this was mostly to address the PR problem. People were afraid
> that if they knew their words would come back to haunt them, they
> would censor themselves and we could not have a fully free intellectual
> discussion.
> The early days of the list were heady and exciting. I don't believe
> they were quite the "golden age" that some have suggested, but IMO they
> were the equal of many of our most productive periods.
> >From the viewpoint of historical completeness, it is unfortunate that
> no publishable record exists of those discussions. (I would guess
> that individuals did keep at least partial archives in violation of
> the agreement, but they may have been lost by now and may never be made
> public.) But at least it was one way to largely solve the PR problem.
> Perhaps some thought could be given to the creation of a more freewheeling
> counterpoint to the extropians list, one which required agreement to a
> no-archive policy. (I am presently on one mailing list which has such
> a policy.) Then perhaps certain threads could be shunted to that list
> if they were getting into unacceptable territory.
> Here's another idea, which just popped into my head. It doesn't help
> with the "extropians believe X" taunt, but it would prevent individuals
> from being linked to their comments in the archives.
> Imagine a "pseudonymizing" mail list. Everyone who posts gets their
> name transformed into a pseudonym which is a deterministic but secret
> function of the email address (for example, the md5sum of a fixed secret
> string concatenated to the email address). These are put in as the
> "From" addresses.
> The idea is that each person gets a pseudonym, which will be stable over
> time as long as their email address remains the same. People would
> get to know the personalities and characteristics of the pseudonyms,
> and the mailing list would have much the same "feel" as an ordinary list.
> It might even be that it was easy to make a guess about the real names of
> some of the pseudonyms. The idea is not so much to have high security,
> but rather effective deniability.
> By putting the work into the mailing list server it makes the list much
> easier to use. You could even make it somewhat fun by using one of the
> funny-name generators on the web to create the pseudonyms.
> Not a very well thought out idea, but perhaps some will like it -
> Hal

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