Jim Choate ravage at
Mon Aug 4 19:33:18 PDT 1997

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     Web posted at: 9:34 p.m. EDT (0134 GMT)
     SAN FRANCISCO (Reuter) -- A loose coalition of system administrators
     Friday began issuing a "Usenet Death Penalty" against UUNET, a major
     Internet service provider, for its alleged failure to curb "spam"
     emanating from its dialup accounts.
     The penalty took effect 5 p.m. (PDT) Friday, and according to a
     release from the coalition, "all traffic coming from these sources
     is to be canceled until further notice."
     The penalty entails the use of a program called a cancelbot that
     travels from site to site, looking for newsgroup messages that
     originate from a particular person or ISP. When it finds one of the
     messages, it issues a cancel order, which effectively erases the
     Spamming is the bulk delivery of unwanted electronic messages via
     e-mail or newsgroups.
     The action marks the first time a large-scale ISP has been the
     target of a cancelbot. The penalty's purpose, said Dennis
     McClain-Furmansky, is to "mobilize the user base and get them to
     insist on their ISP to give them a clean feed. Right now they are
     paying $20 a month for trash."
     McClain-Furmansky, speaking on behalf of the Usenet death penalty
     issuers, explains that, unlike other ISPs such as EarthLink and Bell
     Atlantic, UUNET has done little or nothing to curb spammers using
     its service. "The few responses they've made to our complaints have
     been excuses," he said.
     After Bell Atlantic was informed by site administrators several
     weeks ago that it had been targeted for the Usenet death penalty,
     the service took immediate action to halt spam, McClain-Furmansky
     said. "We told them what was being planned, and they are making a
     clear effort."
     McClain-Furmansky said that the action was drastic, but it was a
     last resort to close off a flood of spam that was "knocking servers
     offline." On Friday, one of the administrators involved said his
     system processed 1 million messages for the first time ever. Forty
     percent of that was spam, 40 percent cancel messages, 20 percent
     legitimate traffic." About half the cancel messages issued are for
     spam originating from UUNET dialups, said McClain-Furmansky.
     "In my opinion, this is by far the worst censorship action the Net
     has seen to date," said Dave Hayes, who represents a group called
     the Freedom Knights, dedicated to "true free speech" on Usenet.
     Hayes said those pushing the death decree should be "summarily
     condemned by all those who are in support of free speech, which
     unfortunately includes unsolicited advertising."
     Brian Moore, a system administrator in Britain who oversees the
     Usenet feed for his site, said he is not surprised that the action
     was taken against UUNET. "Amongst the 50-some complaints I have sent
     them in the past week, I have received nothing but form letters
     back. The spamming customers continue spamming and there is no
     indication UUNET has acted in any way at all."
     Moore said he has canceled hundreds of porn spams appearing in
     alt.sexual.abuse.recovery. "Quite frankly, UUNET is irresponsible in
     their inability to control their own customers," he said.
     UUNET declined comment Friday.
     Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. 
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