08.31.20

Freedom From Censorship on Mailing Lists

Posted in Free/Libre Software at 11:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Reprinted with permission from the Free Software Fellowship

A recent blog examined the phenomena of fake communities, especially in the free software space.

One prominent tool used to construct the fake community is the email discussion list.

When people join a discussion list, they assume and believe that they are being exposed to a wide range of opinions. Therefore, when some opinions or critical information is hidden, ordinary members of the list are deceived. People have not consented to this deception.

In 2018, FSFE used these tactics to make it appear that nobody supported elections any more. In 2019, rogue elements of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) staff used the same tactics to undermine their own founder, Richard Stallman. FSF is the organization that explains their use of the word Free using the phrase Free as in speech, not free as in beer. When they don’t even allow Free Speech on their own LibrePlanet-discuss mailing list, the organization loses all credibility.

Can you work around mailing list censorship?

By default, it is safe to assume that other members of the mailing list have not consented to being deceived by censorship.

If your messages are being censored and if you didn’t consent to censorship, politely working around it, using techniques like BCC, is morally justified.

The monoculture’s last gasp

Defenders of the monoculture will make up all kinds of defamation and threats to justify their behaviour.

They regularly try to make claims about netiquette or consent to use the email addresses of other list participants.

Ultimately, by joining a list, the participants have consented to communicate with you about the topic of the list. The technical means you use to communicate with them, whether it involves private emails or list emails, are secondary to that. To put that in reverse: if you used the list to send off-topic spam that was unrelated to the list, the simple fact that you had used the official list infrastructure rather than a side-channel doesn’t make your off-topic spam more legitimate. Therefore, they can’t credibly argue that sending on-topic mails through a side-channel is less legitimate.

If you believe in freedom, the F in FSF, like the Libre in LibrePlanet, then protecting communication channels is fundamental.

Side channels in practice

Implementing a side-channel is a great way to make the free software community stronger and more resilient against totalitarian behaviour. Here are some of the design criteria:

  • Make it as easy as possible for other list members to reply through the official channel or the side-channel.
  • Respect the filters that other list users have in place, so the messages you send appear in each recipient’s preferred folder.
  • Assert it was your intention to send the message through official infrastructure and you were only stopped by censorship.
  • Provide a means for people to unsubscribe from the official list.
  • Don’t break threading, ensure your messages appear at the correct place in threads.

All of these things can be achieved using a combination of message headers, including BCC, Reply-To, List-Id, List-Unsubscribe and In-Reply-To.

In the Mozilla Thunderbird email client, you can add any arbitrary header to a message. To do so, go to the Preferences window, click Advanced and then Config Editor….

In the Config Editor window, look for the key mail.compose.other.header and set the String value In-Reply-To,List-Id,List-Unsubscribe:

fsfellowship image

Now you can start composing a message. Here is how to populate each header:

  • To: the address of the list, as recipients will see it. Example: libreplanet-discuss@libreplanet.org
  • Reply-To: the address of the list, where you want people to reply. Example: libreplanet-discuss@libreplanet.org
  • BCC: other list members who you want to see your message. Include them one by one or put them in an alias on your own mail server for convenience.
  • List-Id: copy this value from another message that you received from the list. For example, for LibrePlanet, it might be <libreplanet-discuss.libreplanet.org>
  • List-Unsubscribe: this can also be copied from another message that you received from the list or you could put an alternative URL here. For example, for LibrePlanet, it might be <https://lists.libreplanet.org/mailman/options/libreplanet-discuss>,<mailto:libreplanet-discuss-request@libreplanet.org?subject=unsubscribe>
  • In-Reply-To: only set this if you are writing a message that is a reply to another message on the list. If you received the message in the same mail program and clicked the Reply button then this header is already set for you. If you received the previous message through some other means then you might need to set this manually.
  • Subject: some mailing lists include the list name in the subject. If that is the case, you will want to do the same thing. LibrePlanet inserts [libreplanet-discuss] in the subject.
  • Message footer: if the list messages have a footer, it is also a good idea to copy it. Here is an example of the footer used in the libreplanet-discuss list:
    _______________________________________________
    libreplanet-discuss mailing list
    libreplanet-discuss@libreplanet.org
    
    https://lists.libreplanet.org/mailman/listinfo/libreplanet-discuss
    
    

Here is an example:

fsfellowship image

Questions and feedback?

Please come and share your experiences of mailing list censorship on the Fellowship mailing list.

Share in other sites/networks: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Reddit
  • email

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. How a Newly Inaugurated President Biden Can Advance Software Freedom (If He Actually Wishes to Do So)

    Techrights has 'Four Suggestions' to President Biden, the 46th 'front end' of American plutocracy



  2. InteLeaks – Part XXV: Intel's Brain Drain Leads to Unusual Measures

    As the company once known as 'chipzilla' loses its relevance and dominance in the market it's reaching out to retired people, trying to get them back onboard



  3. Hey Hi (AI) is Just a Trojan Horse for Illegal Software Patents, According to EPO Management and Litigation Firms It's in Bed With

    The longtime pushers or the lobby of patent profiteers just carry on pushing for software patents, nowadays latching onto the inane and unwarranted media hype around Hey Hi (AI) — a hype wave that was co-opted by EPO management to grant unlawful patents



  4. The Central Staff Representatives (CSC) of the EPO Are Petitioning to End the Assault on EPO Staff

    The EPO, just one month after the staff went on strike, is about to receive a compelling petition to stop the assault on EPO staff



  5. InteLeaks – Part XXIV: Love for Microsoft, Not for Free Software or Whatever Replaces Microsoft

    Intel is basing its big decisions on buzzwords and firms that master buzzwords; it's sad that instead of listening to Intel's own (in-house) engineers it's relying on a bunch of clowns who push 'Clown Computing' and 'apps' and 'UX'...



  6. IRC Proceedings: Wednesday, January 20, 2021

    IRC logs for Wednesday, January 20, 2021



  7. Links 21/1/2021: Google Tightens the Screws on Chromium, VideoLAN VLC 3.0.12

    Links for the day



  8. IBM Panics and Resorts to 'Customer Retention' Tactics With Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)

    IBM 'frees' RHEL but with limitations that can restrict growth of small companies (or subject them to financial barriers, originally unforeseen)



  9. Recent Techrights Articles About President Joe Biden

    Instead of writing yet more stuff about the latest US president, let's look back at what we wrote in recent weeks/months



  10. Links 20/1/2021: LibreOffice 7.1 RC2 and the RHEL Contingency

    Links for the day



  11. InteLeaks – Part XXIII: Intel Paying for Bogus 'Research' 'Insights' Which Merely Seek to Justify Outsourcing to Microsoft and Imposing Microsoft's Proprietary Software on Free Software Developers

    Intel's preference for Microsoft monopoly (an imposed/top-down decision) was seemingly certified by so-called 'consultants' and 'analysts' from the outside rather than the inside, basically manufacturing a false perception of consent after managers had already made up their minds



  12. Suppressed Facts of the Free Software Movement and Its Community of Volunteers – Part V: How FSF Secrecy Ended Up Insulting People, Alienating Trans Developers

    Having just uploaded this introductory video, we delve into the backstory or the real reason the FSF sank into somewhat of a crisis with the trans community almost half a decade ago



  13. InteLeaks – Part XXII: Bubbles and Buzzwords, No Substance at Intel's Internet of Things (IoT) Group (IOTG)

    The video above is continuation of the previous part about a document full of superficial buzzwords (not technical jargon anywhere), in effect recommending to managers that they blindly follow trends and cargo cults (such as Clown Computing) and not what’s most suitable for technical excellence



  14. IRC Proceedings: Tuesday, January 19, 2021

    IRC logs for Tuesday, January 19, 2021



  15. Links 20/1/2021: WireGuard for pfSense and New US President

    Links for the day



  16. Links 19/1/2021: Krita 4.4.2 Released and JingOS Hype

    Links for the day



  17. Team UPC Keeps Pretending That UPCA Can Still be Resurrected (Even Without the UK, Which is Strictly a Requirement)

    The latest distortion of facts regarding the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement (UPCA) as seen from the lens of people who seek to profit from such distortion



  18. 'Ethical Source' is Not Ethical and Not a Movement But a Misguided Self-Serving PR Stunt

    Something which is neither enforceable nor ethical is being promoted by profoundly unethical media in the pockets of large corporations



  19. InteLeaks – Part XXI: Intel Seeking Advice From a Bunch of Clowns (Harbor 'Research')

    A firm called Harbor 'Research' is making dubious recommendations to Intel; as shown in the above video, there's also an obsession with buzzwords (typically suggestive of a lack of technical grasp/understanding)



  20. IRC Proceedings: Monday, January 18, 2021

    IRC logs for Monday, January 18, 2021



  21. The US Election Was Not Rigged, But the Nomination Process Was (Undermined to Maintain Control by Oligarchy)

    Cheating/driving the left out of the Democratic Party seems like a longstanding tradition and we know who stands to gain from it; moreover, problems remain in the voting process because it's controlled by secret code of companies like Microsoft (in spite of the openwashing)



  22. InteLeaks – Part XX: Redacted (for Names Only) Release of Intel File About Developer eXperience (DX) Meddling in GNU/Linux

    Today (or tonight) we release the first 'phase' of InteLeaks in a sensibly redacted form; coming up next is a surprise from Team Microsoft



  23. Sites in Bed With the EPO and UPC 'Covering' the 'News' Without Mentioning Any of the Overt Abuses

    It is rather sad that blogs like IP Kat have turned into proponents of abusive EPO management and Team UPC increasingly resorts to lying using pseudonyms (to avert criticism and accountability); much of the rebuttal or response that’s hinged on reality/facts can only be found in comments, which are still subjected to a face-saving moderation process (conducted by Team UPC)



  24. Suppressed Facts of the Free Software Movement and Its Community of Volunteers – Part IV: Stories From the Depths of the Free Software Foundation (FSF)

    To reduce or alleviate suspicions and a potential of mistrust the FSF needs to become more transparent and liberate information (such as the real reason Bradley Kuhn left, as noted in the previous part)



  25. Links 18/1/2021: GNU Radio 3.9, Wikipedia at 20

    Links for the day



  26. InteLeaks – Part XIX: Intel's Web 'Experts' Seen as Microsoft Champions Dealing With the Platform Microsoft is Looking to Destroy

    Things aren't rosy at Intel because the hires aren't suitable for the job of documenting and/or presenting GNU/Linux-centric products (whose target audience is Free software developers)



  27. Adding Images as Characters to the Daily Bulletins of Techrights

    Our daily bulletins now have inside them coarse graphics, depicted using characters alone, and the tool used to generate them announced a new release earlier today; we showcase some of its features (in a new video)



  28. Links 18/1/2021: Weekly Summaries and Linux 5.11 RC4

    Links for the day



  29. IRC Proceedings: Sunday, January 17, 2021

    IRC logs for Sunday, January 17, 2021



  30. The Oligarchs' Parties Will Never Choose the Side of Software Freedom Because Free Software Cannot Bribe Officials

    The tough reality is that next week's (or this coming week's, depending on what Sunday counts as) inauguration ceremony is partly symbolic as all the same and important issues remain largely untouched, for corporations control almost everything of significance


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

Recent Posts