How to Receive Banned
Newsgroups FAQ (11/30/94)

Archive-name: usenet/banned-groups-faq Last-modified: 11/30/94 Version: 1.1
Posted near the middle of each month to alt.censorship,,, news.misc, alt.answers, and news.answers. Prepared by Joseph Gebis ( Please address any additions, comments, or corrections to The newest version of the "How to Receive Banned Newsgroups FAQ" is available electronically by many different methods. See section 6.3 for details. Section 1 describes this document. Section 2 provides most of the quick information you need to find out how to receive banned newsgroups. Sections 3-5 contain other information relating to the topic. Section 6 contains more information about this document. All information in this article is presented solely for informational purposes. Joseph Gebis takes no responsibility for any information contained within this article. TABLE OF CONTENTS Chapter 1: Overview and Introduction 1.1 What is this faq? 1.2 What is needed to get news? 1.3 Other notes Chapter 2: How to get Banned Newsgroups 2.1 Not-for-profit news providers 2.2 Commercial news providers 2.3 Open nntp sites 2.4 Gopher 2.5 Mail to news gateways 2.6 Internet services list 2.7 I only have access to... Chapter 3: Ethics of Banned Newsgroups 3.1 What is a "banned newsgroup"? 3.2 Should news administrators be allowed to ban newsgroups? 3.3 Should people be allowed to describe how to receive banned newsgroups? 3.4 Are newsgroups libraries? 3.5 Do we really need this faq? 3.6 Online references pertaining to electronic freedom and privacy Chapter 4: Legalities of Banned Newsgroups 4.1 Legal responsibilities of news administrators 4.2 Is it legal to describe how to receive banned newsgroups? 4.3 Legal references pertaining to banned newsgroups Chapter 5: Further Information on References Mentioned 5.1 Information on Freenets 5.2 Information on Library Policy Statements Archive Access 5.3 Information on EFF 5.4 Information on the Legal List Chapter 6: Information on this Faq 6.1 Who compiled this faq? 6.2 How do I submit additions, comments, and corrections? 6.3 How do I get the latest version of the faq? 6.4 What other information do you need? 6.5 Is there an html version on this faq? 6.6 Who are all the wonderful people that added information to the faq? 6.7 Who else needs to be thanked? 6.8 References 6.9 Disclaimer ======================================================================== Chapter 1: Overview and Introduction "I cannot convince myself that there is anyone so wise, so universally comprehensive in his judgment, that he can be trusted with the power to tell others: 'You shall not express yourself thus, you shall not describe your own experiences; or depict the fantasies which your mind has created; or laugh at what others set up as respectable; or question old beliefs; or contradict the dogmas of the church, of our society, our economic systems, and our political orthodoxy.'" - Jake Zeitlin 1.1 What is this faq? This faq was originally intended to be a compilation of other information sources about ways to get newsgroups. It has become more than that, in a few ways. I'm trying to include information on how to access any internet resource from any other one (although the emphasis of this document is still on newsgroups), and it has become, I hope, a document discussing important ethical issues. 1.2 What is needed to get news? There are two things needed to "get" news in the fullest sense of the word. First of all, you need a source of news, and a means of accessing that source; this will allow you to read other people's messages. Secondly, you need a way to post new articles to news. This document will allow you to find different ways to do both. 1.3 Other notes I tried to make sure I gave credit for every file I use in this document; if you notice something not credited, or miscredited, tell me. Also, tell me if the information is wrong; some information included in this document changes fairly often. I tried to use "[BEGIN INCLUDED FILE: #]" when starting a direct, or only slightly edited, reference from a file. The number is the number of the full reference, given at the end of this document. Every "[BEGIN INCLUDED FILE: #]" is matched by a "[END INCLUDED FILE]". I use "[BEGIN EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE: #]" when I use selected sections, or have had to do heavy editing on a file. The number is the number of the full reference, given at the end of this document. Every "[BEGIN EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE: #]" is matched by a "[END EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE]". It is recommended that you do get the file if you want to see the original, unedited version. I have tried to remain faithful to the original intent and purpose of every included document. If any reference is wrong, please tell me. ======================================================================== Chapter 2: How to get Banned Newsgroups 2.1 Not-for-profit news providers A good way to get banned newsgroups is to use a free news provider. Many free news providers also provide access to many other important services. A partial list includes: Cyberspace ---------- Telnet to and login as "newuser". From there, you can follow the menus and get a new shell account; from this account, you can access news directly, or telnet to any of the below places. Freenets -------- There are many freenets. These are networks at which the charge for using is nothing, or very little. Most of them tell you how to log in to them; for the ones that do not, look in the parenthesized comment beside it in this listing. I have not had a chance to look through all these; some or all may not provide guest news access (or news access at all). This list is from the Internet Services List. Instructions on obtaining it are below. [BEGIN EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE: 1] (login: bbs) (login: guest password: visitor) (login: guest) (login: guest) (login: guest) (login: guest) (login: bss password: sendit2me) (login: guest) (login: guest password: guest) (login: visitor) [END EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE] Another large list was posted by David W. Morgan ( I'm not sure if this list will be posted on a regular basis. This list was posted in Included at the bottom of this list was the message "For more information write to". Hermes ------ Telnet to From there, you can get an account and can access news and other internet services. Nyx --- To access nyx, telnet to There is a very easy to use menu system; you can follow those menus. To get easy access to newsgroups, login as "guest" (don't use the quotation marks). Then type: l (look around the system) qa (quick access to what works) n (netnews) then simply type the name of the group to which you would like access. Nyx will not allow guest users to post to newsgroups. Looking around nyx is free; to get a full account requires you to register. Prairienet ---------- Prairienet is a site that offers free accounts to residents of Illinois; people outside of Illinois must pay $50, but they can look around for free. To try Prairienet out, telnet to and login as "visitor". Um-m-net -------- Telnet For which host, enter "um-m-net". Enter "g" for guest. For login, enter "newuser". UNC BBS ------- Telnet and login as "launch". 2.2 Commercial news providers Disclaimer: I am not related to any of the following service providers. If you cannot access some news groups, you can always turn to a commercial news providers. These news providers will give you shell access, news, dialup lines, and more (for a fee). To find out what commercial internet service providers exist in your area, get one of the commercial service provider lists. [BEGIN INCLUDED FILE: 2] Other sources ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The PDIAL list: the authority on (full) Internet access sites. Get it from <> body "Send PDIAL". The NIXPUB list: this is primarily a list of mail/news sites, although it includes many full access sites as well. Get it from <> with subject/body: "get PUB nixpub.{long|short}" or by FTP from{long|short}. I would also strongly suggest accessing Peter Scott's excellent Hytelnet service at the University of Saskatchewan. Telnet to login: hytelnet. Information on both pay systems and freenets (which can often provide the level of needed access) can be found on this site. Note that, while there are other Hytelnet sites, USask is the most up to date. Regional hints - National service providers: FTP to and FTP the files whose names begin with "internet-access..." - there is one for the US, and one for other countries. They are derived from the WHOLE INTERNET GUIDE, by Ed. Krol. Note that many of the providers listed in this list only deal with academic institutions. UK: ftp to:{lng,sum} the lng and sum represent the long and summary lists respectively. Latin America and Caribbean: Gopher to (Peruvian provider - see entry). A complete list of contacts for Latin America and the Caribbean is available there. Australia: There is a "Public Networking in Australia FAQ" but I don't know of a site where it is archived. It is posted regularly to "alt.internet.access.wanted". If you're desperate and can't wait, you can try asking me for a copy... If there isn't too much demand, I'll respond to requests - otherwise I'll remove this "offer." Germany: See the "Individual Network" entry, and follow the instructions. France: FTP to culture-french-faq/networking/part{1|2}. I more than welcome comments, corrections and especially additions. Please write me at: Louis Raphael <> I'll do my best to answer all my mail... Special thanks to Dr. Josh Backon for providing information on many of the listed sites. FTP: This list is available by anonymous FTP from in /pub/fslist/FSLISTXX where XX is the version number. [END INCLUDED FILE] America Online provides access to newsgroups. AOL's number is (800) 827-6364, or you can call (800) 827-5808 to use their BBS (where software is available). Delphi also provides access to usenet. Delphi's number is (800) 695-4005, or you can call (800 695-4002 to use their BBS. Press enter a few times, then log on as "FREE" to try out their service, or "INFO" to get more info. 2.3 Open nntp sites If you do not want to use a not-for-profit or commercial news provider, there are open nntp sites that allow almost anyone with shell access and a news reader to read and post news. There used to be a list of open nntp sites, but those sites have since shut down. However, there are still some open nntp sites out there. To access these sites, you need a news reader that allows you to change which nntp site is uses. rn and all of its derivatives (trn, strn, xtrn, etc) all allow you to do this. I've been told that the newest version of nn (6.5.0, a beta version) also supports this. To access these open nntp sites, you need to set the environment variable "NNTPSERVER" to the site that you want to use. If you are using: sh or one of its derivatives (ksh, bash, zsh, etc): type "; export NNTPSERVER" (without the quotation marks). csh or one of its derivatives (tcsh): type "setenv NNTPSERVER" (without the quotation marks). To access these open nntp sites with tin, you can specify that you want to connect to a remote site by including the "-r" option on the command line, or using "rtin" instead of "tin". The NNTPSERVER variable has to be set. It's extremely important to remember to keep separate .newsrc files for each machine you use. When you are going to read news at another site, move your .newsrc file to something else: "mv .newsrc .newsrc.local" (without the quotation marks). Then, when you are done reading news there, copy your .newsrc back to its original name: "cp .newsrc.local .newsrc" (without the quotation marks). Also, if you want to keep a .newsrc for the other site you read, make sure you copy that file to .newsrc before you read it, and copy it to another file when you are done reading news there. Scott Yanoff did post this list recently, which he says was taken from the older list on open nntpservers. Many of these may have shut down by now., (read only), (posting OK), (read only), (read only), (posting OK), (read only), (read only), (posting OK), (read only), (read only), (read only),, (posting OK), (read only), (posting OK), (posting OK), (read only) Christopher K. Neitzert ( posted this list of open nntp sites: sol.ctr.columbia 2.4 Gopher Usenet news is available through gopher. To find it, search for "usenet news -t7" in veronica, or use these sites: [BEGIN INCLUDED FILE: 3] gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp 4321 gopher -pnntp 3030 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp 4324 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp 6671 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp 4324 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp 4324 gopher -pnntp 4324 gopher -pnntp pinchy.micro.umn.EDU 4324 gopher -pnntp 4324 gopher -pnntp 71 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp 4321 gopher -pnntp 17502 gopher -pnntp 4320 [END INCLUDED FILE] Christopher K. Neitzert ( posted this list of gopher-accessable news sites: gopher -pnntp 71 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp gopher.fsu.EDU 4320 gopher -pnntp 6671 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp 4324 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp 4324 gopher -pnntp usage.csd.unsw.OZ.AU 4320 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnntp 4320 gopher -pnews 4320 gopher -p"1/Usenet News" 70 gopher -p"1/News/Usenet" 70 gopher -p"1/" 70 gopher -p"1/Usenet" 70 gopher -p"1/Internet/News" 70 gopher -p"1/news" 70 gopher -p"1/news" 70 gopher -p".news/" 70 gopher -p"1/.nn" 70 2.5 Mail to news gateways Mail to news gateways are sites that will take any article given to them and forward it to news. For information on these, mail with any message, or finger From the latest version of the file that I have: [BEGIN INCLUDED FILE: 4] Anonymous postings to usenet can be made by sending anonymous mail to one of the following mail-to-usenet gateways: (removes headers) (Preserves all headers) [END INCLUDED FILE] Some of these change fairly often. 2.6 Internet services list This is not a direct way to access news, but it does list many places, and it changes often. To get the internet services list, look in, comp.misc,, alt.bbs.internet, news.answers, comp.answers, or alt.answers, or ftp to, or archie for, or finger 2.7 I only have access to... ...telnet. With access to telnet, you can access any of the free services providers listed above. You can also access one of the many gopher servers that will allow you to read news. These are listed in the internet services list. Information on this list is in section 1.7. Here's the relevant information from the latest version I have: [BEGIN EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE: 1] telnet telnet telnet telnet telnet telnet (Login: wsuinfo) telnet (Login: wiscinfo) telnet [INFOSLUG] telnet (Login: infopath) telnet telnet telnet telnet telnet telnet telnet (Login: gwis) telnet telnet (Login: NICOL) telnet (Login: info) telnet (Login: info) telnet [Chile] telnet [Denmark] telnet telnet [Ecuador] telnet [Spain] telnet [Iceland] telnet [Italy] telnet [Poland] telnet [Sweden] telnet [Sweden] telnet [Sweden] telnet [Switz.] telnet (Login: info) offers: Access to other services, gophers, documents, etc. (Login: gopher) [END EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE] You can also access the web via telnet. From via Carl M. Kadie: telnet telnet (login: www) telnet (login: www) telnet (login: www) telnet sun.uakom.cs telnet (login: www) telnet Many groups are mirrored in a mailing list; also, some sites have ftp archives. The best way to find if the group you are interested in has this service is to check the faq; these faqs are available through the ftp site Ftp service is available through email. For information on ftp-through-mail, look in the internet services list. Here's the important information from the latest info I have: [BEGIN INCLUDED FILE: 1] mail mail mail bitftp@dearn or to (Europe only) mail mail mail or bitftp@plearn (Europe) mail or Body-of-letter: help or ftplist for a list of anon. ftp sites. [END INCLUDED FILE] Also, it is possible for someone to mail you certain newsgroups with a simple perl script (if they have access to a shell account). For information on this, write me; it's still in the works. It's actually possible to gopher through email. From the internet services list: [BEGIN EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE: 1] mail mail mail mail [END EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE] Include any subject but no body. You can also access the web via email. Send mail to, and include the line: "help". For any group that is moderated, you can submit messages directly to the moderator (via email) instead of the normal posting method; this is all a newsreader does for moderated newsgroups. To find out which groups are moderated and the moderation address, you can ftp to and get /pub/usenet/news.answers/moderator-list/partX, where "X" is the number of the separate parts. You can also subscribe to mailing lists that mirror newsgroups. To get a list of these, you can ftp to and get /pub/usenet/news.ansers/mail/news-gateways/partX, where "X" is the number of the separate parts. ...ftp. Many newsgroups are archived. The best way to find out about this is to check the faq for that group, available at ....gopher. News is directly available through gopher; search for "usenet" in veronica, or look at the list above. Also, you can gopher to any of the above gopher sites to see some very full-featured gopher sites. It is also possible to telnet through gopher; this can be done by gohering to, or be searching for "Telnet Resources" in veronica. The path is: Other Information and Resources (Internet)/ Tools for surfing the net/ Telnet Resources/ Open telnet/ From there, you can enter any telnet site (including the sites listed above and read news). To search for other possible open telnet sites, search for "telnet -t78" in veronica. You can also ftp through gopher; the path is: 1/ FTP Searches/ Popular FTP Sites via Gopher/ From there, you can get files from many sites. ======================================================================= Chapter 3: Ethics of Banned Newsgroups 3.1 What is a "banned newsgroup"? A "banned newsgroup" in the strictest sense of the phrase would be a newsgroup to which access has been denied because of the content of material in that newsgroup. However, in this faq, I use a looser sense of the phrase: basically, any newsgroup to which access is impossible, difficult through normal methods, or restricted in any way. 3.2 Should news administrators be allowed to ban newsgroups? It is becoming clearer and clearer in this information age that newsgroups (and all electronic communication) are analogous to libraries. Because of this, the rules and ethics that apply to libraries should be applied to newsgroups. Carl M. Kadie has done some wonderful work on archiving and analyzing information relating to computer freedom; much of the information in this document, especially that relating to the "newsgroups as libraries" analogy, is his. See below on how to access his huge archive. Without going into legalities, there are some important reasons that news administrators would not want to provide access to certain news groups. These reasons include, but are not limited to: - Size limitations. Certain news groups are just too large to provide access to without severely limiting other newsgroups. - A limited feed. For example, a company or school may wish to only allow newsgroups related to their company or school. However, this does not allow them to only pick and choose from the remaining newsgroups. Of course, there are some reasons that are generally not considered valid. These reasons include, but are not limited to: - Copyright violations. A library (or bookstore, or the phone company) can not be expected to scan every article (or book, or communication) for illegal material. - Content of newsgroups. If you are willing to accept the "newsgroup as a library" paradigm, you can not allow or deny access to newsgroups based on content. The American Library Association (ALA) has said: [BEGIN EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE: 5] "The library is one of the great symbols of our democracy. It is a living embodiment of the First Amendment because it includes voices of dissent."1 Libraries of all types adhere to this ideal ... It is essential to this purpose that the library function as neutral ground in that marketplace. Viewpoint-based discrimination has no place in ... library collections or services; for the library to espouse partisan causes or favor particular viewpoints violates its mission. Libraries serve the function of making ideas and information available to all members of the society, without discrimination. The right of free access to information for all individuals is basic to all library service. The central thrust of the LIBRARY BILL OF RIGHTS is to protect and encourage the free flow of information and ideas. Article 5 protects the rights of an individual to use a library regardless of origin, age, background, or views. The American Library Association urges all libraries to set policies and procedures that reflect the basic tenets of the LIBRARY BILL OF RIGHTS, within the framework of Constitutional imperatives and limitations. 1. Richard R. Kreimer v. Bureau of Police for the Town of Morristown, et. al., ___ F. Supp. ___ (No. 90-554, May 22, 1991). [END EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE] The Bill of Rights (from the ALA) reads, in part: [BEGIN EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE: 6] The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas. A person's right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views. [END EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE] Moreover, it is not only the right thing to do to allow access to these newsgroups; according the the "Librarian's Code of Ethics", librarians must stand up to attempts to ban newsgroups. [BEGIN EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE: 7] The Librarian's Code of Ethics II. Librarians must resist all efforts by groups or individuals to censor library material. III. Librarians must protect each user's right to privacy with respect to information sought or received and materials consulted, borrowed, or acquired. V. Librarians must distinguish clearly in their actions and statements between their personal philosophies and attitudes and those of an institution or professional body. [END EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE] And there are even more general codes of ethics that could be applied, including the Code of Ethics for Information Scientists: [BEGIN EXCERTPS FROM INCLUDED FILE: 8] A Code of Ethics for Information Scientists: Information professionals should: * strive to make information available to individuals who need it * strive both to ensure accuracy and not to infringe upon privacy or confidentiality in providing information about individuals * protect each information user's and provider's right to privacy and confidentiality Information professionals should: * resist efforts to censor publications * play active roles in educating society to understand and appreciate the importance of information promoting equal opportunity for access to information [END EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE] News administrators are generally not trained in law relating to libel, copyright violations, and pornography; they often don't have a good basis to judge whether or not something is in violation of the law. It is impossible for news administrators to scan all news. "Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritative regime." - Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart 3.3 Should people be allowed to describe how to receive banned newsgroups? Obviously, I believe so, since I am writing this faq. However, this information is already out there; both in forms of getting banned newsgroups, and just as general internet services. Not much information in this faq is new; it just hasn't always been in one spot at one time. In fact, I believe that it is important to describe how to receive banned newsgroups, and for people to excercise their rights pertaining to newsgroups. It is very disturbing for me to see news administrators declaring themselves ultimate arbitrators of what is and is not appropriate; even looking past the obvious problems with this, the decision is often made for basically arbitrary reasons. News administrators will only realize that they can not control what people can and can not read on a selective basis if people stand up for their rights. If people do not continue to excercise their rights to getting uncensored information, it will become easier and easier for organizations to infringe upon those rights. For this reason, it is important to keep this information alive, even if it does not directly apply to you at this moment. Who knows when the news situation at your site will change? Of course, this file is most useful in places where news is (even partially) banned; if your site has a news feed that is censored, it is your responsibility as a member of the electronic culture to provide this information to others at your site that need it. The only way that our rights will not be tread upon is if people stand up and excercise their rights. Every person that wishes to be able to choose has been drafted into the anti-censorship war. Even if access to your particular newsgroups is not being challenged today, every new rule and regulation takes you one step closer to the day when you no longer decide what you can read. "I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves, and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise that control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion." - Thomas Jefferson 3.4 Are newsgroups libraries? Carl M. Kadie has made this wonderful statement, that pretty much sums it up: [BEGIN INCLUDED FILE: 9] So what is a library? Here is my favorite definition: (From Indiana state law) "'Library' means a collection of a variety of books or other printed matter, audiovisual materials or other items in which knowledge is recorded; kept in a centralized place; for which a person who as knowledge of the materials, their arrangement, their use and of library skills is responsible; and which are for the use of individuals or groups in meeting their recreational, informational, educational, research or cultural needs." Here are some others: The best definition in the OED II is: "a public institution or establishment, charged with the care of a collection of books, and the duty of rendering the books accessible to those who require to use them." I called the American Library Association, but the folks I talked to did know of an official definition. They did, however, suggest looking in the book _American Library Laws_ (5th edition) for legal definitions. From the book I learned that most states do not define the term. Here are definitions from the states that do: California: "'School library' means an organized collection of printed and audiovisual materials which (a) is administered as a unit, (b) is located in a designed place, and (c) makes printed, audiovisual, and other materials as well as necessary equipment and services of a staff accessible to elementary and secondary school students and teachers." "'Academic library' means a library established and maintained by a college or university to meet the needs of its students and faculty, and others by agreement." Maine: "'Media center' means any library utilizing print as well as extensive nonprint resources and materials." Pennsylvania: "'Local Library.' Any free, public, nonsectrian library, whether established and maintained by a municipality or by a private association, corporation or group, which serves the informational, educational and recreational needs of all the residents of the area for which its governing body is responsible, by providing free access (including free lending and reference services) to an organized and currently useful collection of printed items and other materials and to the services of staff trained to recognized and provide for these needs." South Dakota: "'Public library materials,' the various forms in which knowledge, information, and humanity's cultural heritage are recorded that a public library might acquire, organized and make available to its clientele;" Washington State: "'Resources' are library materials which include but are not limited to print, nonprint (e.g., audiovisual, realia, etc.), and microform formats; network resources such as software, hardware, and equipment; electronic and magnetic records; data bases; communication technology; facilities; and human expertise." [According to the OED II, "realia" are " Objects which may be used as teaching aids but were not made for the purpose."] [END INCLUDED FILE] 3.5 Do we really need this faq? If you are at a well-connected site, you may not see the need for this document. However, consider these recent real-world examples: - A news administrator announces that certain newsgroups will be cut off because of "copyright violations" - People at a site have to have every news message of theirs approved by an official member of the news administration before it will be posted - Certain articles at a site are filtered out before people are allowed to read news - People are forced to sign statements and go through other procedures to get access to certain newsgroups All of these examples have occurred recently. The people at these sites are having decisions made for them. The administrators are ignoring many codes of ethics. All of the people at these sites can be helped with information on how to get banned newsgroups. But even beyond that, I feel that it is important to show people (both news administrators and readers) that there are alternatives to reading a censored newsfeed. There is no way to prevent any person on the net from getting banned newsgroups; if you have access to any internet resource, you have full access to news. "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." - John Gilmore 3.6 Online references pertaining to electronic freedom and privacy News is a great place to discuss electronic rights. Some newsgroups that are good to read are: - alt.censorship - alt.comp-acad.freedom.announce - - alt.privacy - - There are also mailing lists that discuss these issues. To join the cypherpunks mailing list, send mail to "". The submission address for the mailing list is "". There are some web sites related to censorship and banned newsgroups. These include: ======================================================================== Chapter 4: Legalities of Banned Newsgroups Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer. 4.1 Legal responsibilities of news administrators There are basically two ways of looking at usenet. The first way is like a bookstore; there is no way the bookstore can be expected to scan through all the books it has to see which ones may contain material that is illegal or immoral. The second way is like an official newsletter, in which the editor is responsible for all the material contained within it. Realistically, there is no way that a news administrator can be expected to read through all of usenet news; there are hundreds of megabytes of it every week. However, news administrators that limit access to newsgroups based upon content are assuming responsibility for what is in the remaining newsgroups; they are basically accepting the newsletter view of usenet. If a news administrator limits access to news groups based upon content of those groups, they are basically asking for legal troubles for them and for all news administrators. Imagine if the phone company was responsible for every drug deal that occured over the phone lines; they would be gone in a week. Which way does the law view usenet? This question was partially answered in a recent court case, Cubby Inc. v. CompuServe. In this case, Cubby sued CompuServe for information that was made available through them. The court ruled in favor of CompuServe. They recognized and legitimized the analogy of usenet to a bookstore. But what about obscene images? First of all, it's important to note what the law considers legal. From "SEX AND THE SINGLE SYSADMIN: The risks of carrying graphic sexual materials" by Mike Godwin ( [BEGIN INCLUDED FILE: 10] In layman's terms, a jury (or a judge in a nonjury case) would ask itself something like these four questions: 1) Is it designed to be sexually arousing? 2) Is it arousing in a way that one's local community would consider unhealthy or immoral? 3) Does it depict acts whose depictions are specifically prohibited by state law? 4) Does the work, when taken as a whole, lack significant literary, artistic, scientific, or social value? If the answer to all four questions is "yes," the material will be judged obscene, and it will be Constitutional to prosecute someone for distributing it. (It should be noted in passing that pictures of the "hardness" of Playboy and Penthouse photography have never been found to be obscene--their appearance in digital form on Usenet sites may create copyright problems, but they won't create obscenity problems.) [END INCLUDED FILE] It's important to note that many of the pictures similar to those that appear in "Playboy" on usenet are not considered obscene by the law. But what about the material that would be considered obscene? From the same file: [BEGIN INCLUDED FILE: 10] And, in the 1959 case Smith v. California, the Court held that criminal obscenity statutes, like the great majority of all criminal laws, must require the government to prove "scienter" (essentially, "guilty knowledge" on the defendant's part) before that defendant can be found guilty. So, if the government can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a system operator knew or should have known about the obscene material on the system, the operator cannot be held liable for an obscenity crime. In short, you can't constitutionally be convicted merely for possessing obscene material, or for distributing obscene material you didn't know about. [END INCLUDED FILE] 4.2 Is it legal to describe how to receive banned newsgroups? Yes. Generally, it's not illegal to distribute information about how to do things; people have been distributing information on how to make bombs, how to steal things, and how to modify electronic equipment for a long time, and it's totally legal to describe how to do so. Moreover, it's not (to my knowledge) illegal to read any banned newsgroups. Even if your news administrator has decided that he does not want you to read that group, you have no legal responsibility to follow his wishes. In fact, it may be illegal for him to try and force you to follow his wishes. "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ..." - First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America 4.3 Legal references pertaining to banned newsgroups Carl M. Kadie is in charge of a wonderful reference of legal and ethical documents pertaining to freedom of information, especially electronic information. From the latest information I have: [BEGIN INCLUDED FILE: 11] * Computers and Academic Freedom (CAF) Archive The CAF Archive is an electronic library of information about computers and academic freedom. If you have gopher, the archive is browsable with the command: gopher -p academic If you have Mosiac or some other WWW client, go to It is available via anonymous ftp to ( in directory "pub/CAF". It is also available via email. For information on email access send email to In the body of your note include the lines: connect cd /pub/CAF get caf cd /pub/CAF/faq get archive [END INLCUDED FILE] Note: I think that "gopher -p CAF" works, instead of the "... -p academic" mentioned above. A very good, in-depth discussion of legal issues affecting computers is "E-Law2.0: Computer Information Systems Law and System Operator Liability Revisited" by David J. Loundy, available through EFF's gopher. EFF is a wonderful net resource. They have a lot of online information pertaining to electronic freedom and privacy, including actual legal documents and interpretations. gopher to (via one of the ways mentioned above) to check it out. For more information on gopher, see section 5.2. Also, take a look at the Electronic Frontier Canada (EFC) gopher; David Jones (djones@insight.dcss.McMaster.CA) sent me this info on them: ---- Those at Canadian institutions who know of recent instances of "electronic censorship", including bans on Usenet newsgroups, are encouraged to report it to Electronic Frontier Canada by sending email to "" for inclusion in the EFC archive: gopher -p "1/community/efc" ---- "The Legal List, Law-Related Resources on the Internet and Elsewhere" by Erik J. Heels is a list of legal resources that may contain info relating to freedom of information or other net topics. [BEGIN EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE: 12] 2.2.1. MAILING LIST. If you wish to be added to "The Legal List" Mailing List, send a message in the following form: To: Subject: subscribe John Smith Hi, I saw a reference to "The Legal List" on CompuServe. Thanks, - John The SUBJECT of the message should contain your real name. I always like to hear where you learned about "The Legal List," so if you include this information in the BODY of the message, I would greatly appreciate it! Version 4.0 of "The Legal List" (as well as other announcements) will be mailed to those on this Mailing List. To cancel your subscription to this Mailing List, send a message in the following form: To: Subject: unsubscribe Please allow up to ONE WEEK for a reply to messages sent to (If you send multiple subscription requests, you will get multiple responses. However, duplicate addresses are removed before any messages are sent to those on "The Legal List" Mailing List, so you should not receive multiple copies of any messages.) 2.3. ANONYMOUS FTP. "The Legal List" is available via anonymous FTP from (Midnight Networks Inc.) as pub/LegalList/legallist.txt. You may connect to by anonymous FTP ONLY. (Please do NOT TELNET to If you have e-mail access but you do not have FTP access, you may want to try DEC's FTP-via-e-mail service, FTPMAIL (see Section 4.1). To get "The Legal List" via e-mail from DEC's FTPMAIL service, send the following message to connect ascii get /pub/LegalList/README get /pub/LegalList/legallist.txt quit The files will be e-mailed to you in a day or so. If you have problems with FTPing to, send a message to or 2.4. GOPHER. "The Legal List" is available via Gopher from the University of Southern Maine Gopher site (University of Maine School of Law, site 2.4.2. OTHER KNOWN GOPHER SITES. "The Legal List" has been posted to the following Gopher sites: Law Related Sources/Legal List... Do a VERONICA search of "Legal List" to find other sites. (This is why it's important to include the words "The Legal List v3.0" when you add "The Legal List" to your Gopher site.) <+> 2.5. USENET. "The Legal List" is posted on initial release to and periodically to other newsgroups (e.g.,, misc.answers, and news.answers). It is also available via anonymous FTP from as /pub/usenet/news.answers/law/net-resources/ files part1-part3. To obtain a copy via e-mail from this site, send a message to with the following lines in it: send usenet/news.answers/law/net-resources/part1 send usenet/news.answers/law/net-resources/part2 send usenet/news.answers/law/net-resources/part3 quit [END EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE] ======================================================================== Chapter 5: Further information on references mentioned 5.1 Information on Freenets [BEGIN EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE: 13] A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or per- haps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives. - James Madison These words of James Madison, if anything, are of greater significance now then when they were first written. We, as a so- ciety, are at a point where whether we are going to live in an "Information Age" is no longer at issue. We are. The only ques- tion which remains is what we are going to do about it--whether we, as a society, will be able to use this new technology to more effectively "...arm ourselves with the power which knowledge gives." Free-Net (tm) community computer systems offer a significant and innovative answer to that question. They allow people un- paralleled access to some of the best services and resources our computerized Information Age has to offer; and they do it in a way which makes them free to the user--in much the same way that our public library system, for example, has been free to its patrons for over 100 years. For underlying it all--underlying all the time and effort that has gone into the development of the Free-Net concept--is one simple fact. We can not imagine a 21st Century which does NOT have free public-access community computer systems, just as our century had the free public library. If you agree with that belief; if you agree with us on the sheer inevitability of public access computing then, please, read on. This guide is for you. Thomas M. Grundner, Ed.D President [END EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE] 5.2 Information on Library Policy Statements Archive Access [BEGIN INCLUDED FILE: 14] * Library Policy Statements Library Policy Archive [part of the Computers and Academic Freedom (CAF) Archive [part of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Archive]] This is an on-line collection of library policy statements. It includes the American Library Association's Freedom To Read statement and the ALA Library Bill of Rights. (The ALA material is made available by permission of the American Library Association.) If you have gopher, the archive is browsable with the command: gopher -p1/CAF/library The archive is also accessible via anonymous ftp and email. Ftp to ( It is in directory "pub/CAF/library". To get the file(s) by email, send email to In the body of your note include the lines: connect cd /pub/CAF/library get <filename1> get <filename2> where <filenameX> is the name of a file that you want. File README is a detailed description of the items in the directory. For more information, to make contributions, or to report typos contact J.S. Greenfield ( [END INCLUDED FILE] 5.3 Information on EFF [BEGIN INCLUDED FILE: 15] The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was founded in July of 1990 to ensure that the principles embodied in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are protected as new communications technologies emerge. Since its inception, EFF has worked to shape our nation's communications infrastructure and the policies that govern it in order to maintain and enhance First Amendment, privacy and other democratic values. We believe that our overriding public goal must be the creation of Electronic Democracy, so our work focuses on the establishment of: * new laws that protect citizens' basic Constitutional rights as they use new communications technologies, * a policy of common carriage requirements for all network providers so that all speech, no matter how controversial, will be carried without discrimination, * a National Public Network where voice, data and video services are accessible to all citizens on an equitable and affordable basis, and * a diversity of communities that enable all citizens to have a voice in the information age. [END INCLUDED FILE] 5.4 Information on the Legal List [BEGIN EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE: 12] 1.1. PURPOSE AND HISTORY. The purpose of "The Legal List" is to provide a consolidated list of all of the law-related resources available on the Internet and elsewhere. I have been "on the Internet" since 1984. I initially learned about the Internet by looking over the shoulders of my friends and co-workers (I believe that this is the way most people learn how to navigate the Internet), and then I began exploring the Internet for myself. I spent a great deal of 1992 exploring the Internet in search of law- related resources, because I wanted to know what law-related resources were available on the Internet. I was frustrated that of comprehensive list of such resources did not exist, so I created my own list. As I discussed what I had been doing with others, they began to request copies of my list. In August, 1992, I released the first version. I called this version "beta.4," because it was (and is) a work in progress. COPYRIGHT NOTICE Copyright (c) 1994 Erik J. Heels All rights reserved, except the following: I. ELECTRONIC COPYING. Permission is granted to copy "The Legal List" from one electronic storage or computer system to another (for example, to an e-mail server, FTP site, TELNET site, Gopher site, WWW site, WAIS site, USENET newsgroup, BBS, or any other electronic storage or computer system) provided that this copyright notice is included with all such copies. Your are encouraged to copy and redistribute electronic versions (as described in this section) of "The Legal List." If you choose to do so, please subscribe to "The Legal List" Mailing List (, as described in Section 2.2.1) to minimize the proliferation of old versions of "The Legal List." (For example, if you choose to copy "The Legal List" to your Gopher site, please subscribe to "The Legal List" Mailing List so that you can update your Gopher site when the next version of "The Legal List" is published.) II. OTHER THAN ELECTRONIC COPYING. Permission is granted to copy "The Legal List" other than as described in Section I of this notice (including, but not limited to, printing "The Legal List" or otherwise making paper copies of it) under the following conditions: 1) This copyright notice must be included with all such copies. 2) If "The Legal List" is copied other than as described in Section I of this notice (e.g. if "The Legal List" is printed or photocopied), the copier must pay $9.17 to the author and must notify the author that "The Legal List" has been so copied. Payment must be made in US dollars (check or money order only, payable to "Erik J. Heels") and mailed to: The Legal List Attn: Erik J. Heels 39 Main Street Eliot, ME 03903-2234 [END EXCERPTS FROM INCLUDED FILE] ======================================================================== Chapter 6: Information on this Faq "They accused us of suppressing freedom of expression. This was a lie and we could not let them publish it." - Nelba Blandon, Interior Ministry Director of Censorship 6.1 Who compiled this faq? This faq was compiled by Joseph Gebis ( 6.2 How do I submit additions, comments, and corrections? Mail anything to I also try to read alt.censorship and related newsgroups, but mailing me is the most certain way to get info to me. 6.3 How do I get the latest version of the faq? This faq is posted approximately once a month to alt.censorship,,, news.misc, alt.answers, and news.answers. It is available through ftp from, in /pub/usenet/news.answers/usenet/banned-groups-faq. You can retreive this by mail by using the ftp-by-mail service mentioned above, or by mailing me ( The newest version is available by ftp from my machine ( when it's up, in /pub/docs. 6.4 What other information do you need? Well, anything you have is useful. Send me comments, opinions, and especially, legal info. Also, this information can get out of date; if you notice anything that is, mail me. This document is always growing. Always feel free to post or send me information. 6.5 Is there an html version on this faq? Not yet. Any volunteers? If not, I'll do it eventually. It's available plaintext now on the web at, but I would like to get a real html version sooner or later. 6.6 Who are all the wonderful people that added information to the faq? < Your name here! :) > C. Baden ( Esther Filderman (moose+@CMU.EDU) Seth Finkelstein ( Matthew J Ghio ( John M. Higgins ( David Jones (djones@insight.dcss.McMaster.CA) David J. Loundy ( David Milun (milun@cs.Buffalo.EDU) Christopher K. Neitzert ( Doug Sewell ( Aaron Weiss ( 6.7 Who else needs to be thanked? Ted Faber (, for telling me the John Gilmore quote. Matthew Ghio (, for maintaining the anon remailer information sheet. J.S. Greenfield (, for maintaining the EFF archives. Carl M. Kadie (, for providing the Computers and Academic Freedom archive. Much of the information in this document was submitted by Carl or derived from some of Carl's work; this document would probably not have been possible without him. Louis Raphael (, for maintaining FSLIST. -=Xenon=- (, for posting information on how where to find out about anon remailers. Scott A. Yanoff (, for maintaining the internet services list. 6.8 References 1: The Internet Services List, by Scott A. Yanoff ( This file is available by fingering 2: FSLIST, by Louis Raphael ( This file is available by anonymous ftp from in /pub/fslist/FSLISTXX. 3: Admin/Access List, by Carl M. Kadie ( This file is available by anonymous ftp from in /pub/CAF/admin/access. 4: Info On Anonymous Remailers, by Matthew Ghio ( This file is available by mailing, or by fingering 5: REGULATIONS, POLICIES, AND PROCEDURES AFFECTING ACCESS TO LIBRARY RESOURCES AND SERVICES: An Interpretation of the LIBRARY BILL OF RIGHTS, by the American Library Association. This file is available by anonymous ftp from in /pub/CAF/library/access.policies.ala. 6: The Library Bill of Rights, by the American Library Association. This file is available by anonymous ftp from in /pub/CAF/library/bill-of-.ala. 7: The Librarian Code of Ethics, from Intellectual Freedom Manual, by the American Library Association. This file is available by anonymous ftp from in /pub/CAF/library/ethics.ala. 8: A Code of Ethics for Information Scientists, from Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science (August/September 1990). This file is available by anonymous ftp from in /pub/CAF/library/ethics.asis. 9: What is a libary?, by Carl M. Kadie ( This file is available by anonymous ftp from in /pub/CAF/library/library-netnews-analogy. 10: "Sex and the Single Sysadmin", by Mike Godwin ( This file is available by anonymous ftp from in /pub/Publications/Mike_Godwin/obscene.IW. 11: CAF Access Info. This file is available by anonymous ftp from in /pub/CAF/README. 12: The Legal List, by Erik J. Heels ( This file is available by anonymous ftp from in /pub/LegalList/legallist.txt. 13: Freenet Information, by Thomas M. Grundner. 14: Library Policy Archive Access Information. This file is available by anonymous ftp from in /pub/CAF/library/README. 15: EFF Introductory Information. This file is available by anonymous ftp from in /pub/about.eff. 6.9 Disclaimer This article is Copyright 1994 by Joseph Gebis. It may be freely redistributed in its entirety provided that this notice, and the author's name, is not removed. It may not be sold for profit or incorporated in commercial documents without the written permission of the copyright holder. Permission is expressly granted for this document to be made available for file transfer from installations offering unrestricted anonymous file transfer on the Internet. This document is provided as is without any express or implied warranty. Nothing in this article represents the views of the Univeristy of Illinois or any other organization. ---- Joseph Gebis

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