Internet Safety – Beyond Children

A year ago, I articulated the Protocol for Online Abuse Reporting (PONAR): a framework of icons, forms, and processes which could be deployed to help mitigate the effects of injurious speech online.

PONAR: Icons

[Note: this was originally on the cover page of this series; it was split off to add new information.]

Oppressiveness by Software

The engineer looks at the law and asks, why is it so sloppy? Take the DMCA-CDA disparity, or the fact that anonynous political robocalls are legal in many states while anonymous political commercials are not. The software engineer wonders why this all can’t be straightened out.

Rudolf Elmer Launches website

Rudolf Elmer, the key source in the Wikileaks/BJB story, has created a website Swiss Whistleblower. Some of the information he’d been posting at Wikileaks will now be posted to the new website.

Breaking news from Wikileaks you might have missed!

Yesterday I received an 750-word from the Wikileaks email address ( in response to my critical article about the service. I’d love to reprint it, but the author had the temerity to preface it with the request “off the record.” There are journalists who support the notion that a unilateral request of “off the record” need not be honore

Truth or Swear: the Notary Internet

Two updates in the jurisprudence of free speech online this week help shed light on one of our favorite pastimes, the search for truth. The lawsuit against Wikileaks (that “entity of unknown form” according to the district court) was dropped.

Now Using OpenID

I’ve implemented OpenID on this site. My friend Kaliya Hamlin (Identity Woman) has been helping this effort for a number of years, and when she passed along the news that Yahoo had joined the effort, I decided to get with the program.

How an FCC regulation allows anonymous political robocalls

Communications law in the United States is a little peculiar at times. If I buy time on for an advertisement on television or radio to reach thousands of people over the public airwaves, I have to abide by one set of rules. If. If I use an auto-dialer to reach thousands of people in their homes over the telephone (“robocalls”), I abide by a different set of rules.

The CDA-DMCA Disparity

If you’re in the web publishing practice, you ought to know about this essential paradox: the disparity between the safe harbor exemptions governing copyright infringement (“DMCA”) and defamation/exposure (“CDA 230”).

How long does bigotry stay hosted on YouTube?

That somebody in America can publish antisemitic literature to encourage hatred and bigotry is regrettable, but it is protected by the First Amendment. That said, YouTube is a private service, and their community guidelines prohibit hate speech.

Well, some user JewsWorldPower signed up three months ago, and this person does things like posting copyrighted video from the Colbert Report with antisemitic text in the description alongside. Surely Stephen Colbert has even less interest in being associated with antisemitism than he does in having his video pirated.

PONAR: Call for Participation

This document lists the various groups I am inviting for assistance on the PONAR (Protocol for Online Abuse Reporting) project. As I get endorsements and sponsors I will update this document.

Ordinary folks who are the aggrieved parties

I was directly motivated to start this effort based on conversations over the years with people who have been the victims of online abuse and harassment. I have expressed some of the early formative ideas of PONAR to members of victim's aid group are taking their considerations quite seriously.

PONAR: Architecture

This document provides a brief overview of the PONAR Architecture.

PONAR: Design

Let's review the steps to take if one is the subject of online harassment.  How to Respond to Online Harassment is provided by Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA) an organization mentioned in the previous section. There are number of helpful steps; we'd just like to review how these would be followed with or without a lawyer– as well as through PONAR.

PONAR: Abuse Cases

In my research at Civilities, I've come across several cases — three in the last many months– which inform the development of PONAR (Protocol for Online Abuse Reporting). Each involved an aggrieved party (in some cases, still mostly anonymous) who was harassed by anonymous aggravators online. In all cases I have been able to contact at least one of the parties, in order to understand the case better.

PONAR: Introduction

Machines and humans see the Internet differently. At the machine level, two systems which are communicating are able to do so reciprocally. One system can send a message to the other with the expectation that it can get a response. At the human level, however, this does not hold: one person can send a person a message without any return address. This basic asymmetry has been at the heart of most of the abuse on Internet.

PONAR: Complaint Form

This is the first draft of a submission form for PONAR (Protocol for Online Abuse Reporting). The form is the heart of the request; this can drive the design for an XML schema, database schema, and system architecture.

The objective of this form is to be more formal than an email, while being more convenient (i.e., less expensive) than filing a lawsuit. There is already a variety of online legal form services. I do hope to work with legal experts in order to improve its clarity. By example, here is the Craigslist abuse reporting form.

Courting Wikipedia, Citing Wikipedia

Suppose you’re a state judge, like Conrad Rushing of the Santa Clara-based 6th Appellate Court of California. Where do you go if you need to cleave the difference between words like “blog” and “webzine”? You could seek the opinions of any number of experts from law school-affiliated “Centers of Internet and Society” in Palo Alto or in Cambridge. Or you could have asked my opinion. But perhaps citing me directly would not have been very impressive in the footnotes. So instead, the Appellate Court cited Wikipedia, where my words were published, semi-anonymously. (Until now.)

Constructive Activism, Part II: Freedom of Association

Now that I was committing money to buy a Google AdWord for Alaa, my cause was his. I realized I ought to spend a little more time to learn about him.

The thought crossed my mind that he might have different politics than I, and that somebody might pick on me later for this. Whatever were his thoughts on Israel, I wondered. I searched his website, and found some topical entries– but couldn’t find any actually written by him, only by the folks he was drawing in. I figured if I ought to draw the line somewhere: I couldn’t support anybody who advocated aggression against U.S. or Israeli interests. Anything else he had to say– well, it was up to him, I was defending his right to say it.

Evidence Domain: How do you preserve data evidence before it disappears?

One of the more damning things about evidence is that there are usually parties who want it removed, such as by the accused.

Patriot Tact — A Better Way to Prevent Crime in Libraries

[This is a letter sent to the Boston Globe in response to the horrid Op-Ed contribution “When Librarians protect terrorists” by Richard L. Cravatts on February 6th, 2006. I called the paper to see what follow-up they planned on this, but learned nothing. This is obviously much too long to be a letter, now. I’ve added some links here for your viewing pleasure.]

Scales Of Discourse: Anonymity vs. Credibility

That the Supreme Court of Delaware affirmed the right of anonymous free speech shouldn’t be news. That they affirmed the precedent that there is a tradeoff between anonymity and credibility– this should be news to people quick to celebrate this decision.

Fool Disclosure: Time to be absolutely clear

April First re-introduction: Today is my birthday, I am once again a prime-number age after what has been my longest stretch away from being in my prime, six years. (You do the math). My sister just gave me the best gift ever, a mechanical fifty-year calendar paperweight, which may outlast this operating system, if not social security. Also recently the National Review Online has had some problems understanding what content here is self-parody, so I thought I’d help out by republishing a foolish little piece I wrote on January 24th. According to my new paperweight, I spin the wheel and find out that it was a Monday.

Media Legitimacy: The Core Responsibility of the Media

The ideal of journalism is to be responsible to the truth. Whether individual journalists or publications meet that ideal is often debated, but they all, at a basic level, have a definitive responsibility– to their readers.

Legitimacy: How responsible are you to your readers?

This should be the central obligation of any publisher: legitimacy to the readers, the audience, the constituency. Whether it takes priority over responsibility to the public at large, or even the truth, is a separate, though necessary, discussion. Here we try to help anyone new to publishing consider– questions to ask in assessing how well they are serving their readers. It’s absolutely necessary as the number of readers grows. Call it the Media Contract. (read a longer introduction on media legitimacy)

Dissecting the Most Important Podcast Interview to Date

A fifteen minute podcast conversation between Dave Winer and Joe Trippi sheds a little light on the Zephyr Teachout-Wall Street Journal controversy… and even less on blogger credibility.


Town Democrats demand answers from top campaign advisors!

The election is over, and good Democrats coast-to-coast (and perhaps in between) are scratching their heads and asking: What went wrong? What can we fix?

A culture of torture… or of suppression?

What does the Abu Ghraib prison atrocities mean? Reading through the news, I came upon a couple of damning questions. Is there a culture of permissiveness in the government? Or of suppression of truth? And which is worse?

Stump the President: Submit questions on the Question Scoreboard

“I wish you’d have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it.” — President Bush, at his 4/13 press conference.

This perhaps drew winces in every living room in America. But it did inspire me to consider how a structured forum for questions & answers can offset some of the better-known deficiencies of press conferences. I wrote it up in a proposal called the Question Scoreboard. This page is a sampling board for questions for the President and the 2004 campaign.

The Question Scoreboard

“I wish you’d have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it.”
–President Bush’s immediate response to a question about what his biggest mistake was after 9/11, and what he learned from it.

Putting aside the question of where the Bush’s quote ranks with other incredulous answers in uttered in Presidential news conferences (cf. Eisenhower on whether he could give an example of a major idea of Vice President Nixon’s that had been adopted in his administration: “If you can give me a week, I might think of one.”), as well as how grace under pressure is perceived as a reliable indicator of leadership (Eric Rauchway considers these in Altercation today), not too mention, after three years, is this guy still embarassingly underprepared for the most important job on Earth? let’s actually consider the point.

What to do with your hack attack server logs

Following is a bunch of hack attacks against my server which are trying to exploit the problem identified by the Computer Emergency Reponse Team (CERT) as CA-2003-09 Buffer Overflow in Core Microsoft Windows DLL (also see its CVE entry)

Essentially, my access logs fill up with lines like “SEARCH /x90x02xb1…” (for 32,000 characters), and my Apache configuration has proved very stubborn in filtering them out automatically. So it’s a bit annoying. Plus I don’t like 32KB getting sent to my server unsolicited, in much the way that spam is.

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