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Wikipedia under some of its more distressing times has had to block the entire IP range of parts of the world. For example, they had blocked half of Poland and large parts of Eastern Canada due to problematic users. Spammers make this even more troubling as they encourage the widescale HardBanishment of countries like China, Taiwan, and Russia that do not have strong incentive to cooperate with the rest of the Internet.

In the good ol' days before the SeptemberThatNeverEnded--that is, before the introduction of commercial hosting provided netizens that ability to purchase a degree of anonymity--people were identifiable through their domains since they would only have access through their institutions. Most of the time a well-placed phone call (or a punch in the face) would be sufficient to get the appropriate behaviour. The IncompatibleTimesharingSystem was built around this premise.

However, it's clear that globalization has exacerbated the problem of AOL to epic proportions. Spam is truly an unscratchable itch that globalization presents. The disintermediation of distance has meant that we are in contact with people who have nothing to lose from spamming us. They may be from relatively poor economic areas, or outside the rule of law, or just basically apathetic to how we feel since there is no PowerLoop? back to them from us. The sad part is that spam drowns out the SignalToNoiseRatio that gives their compatriots a voice the rest of us might want to hear.

In short, these people have no fear that we will call their mothers or fly over there to punch them in the face, so they spam without hesitation. But perhaps a good ol' fashioned embargo will induce others near them to take action. While our governments are playing footsy in an effort to create global free trade, that free trade can only be enacted through the Internet. And while an embargo of us lowly public websites will not impact any industry, the Internet gets used by the public over there as well. If we ban these regions from our part of the Internet, those people who do want to talk to us may feel compelled to exert pressure on their problematic neighbours, and then hopefully they'd get organized and do it.

So, a RegionalBan may be the necessary PoliticalAction to induce social pressure to fix the problems. It's one way to call their mothers.

On the other hand, it will also PunishReputation and thus it fails to LimitTemptation. People cut out from discussions with us may blame us rather than their spamming neighbours. It does seems violent: the underlying logic is that as a collective society, more bad people are coming than good people, thus making it an economic decision to HardBan them. But economics isn't the only concern. There is also fairness. These strategies that are somehow about controlling something external are malformed. The essence of SoftSecurity is to ControlYourself. Yet, while this strategy isn't obviously NonViolent, AvoidConflict is also NonViolent, and just saying we will not do business with this troubled part of the network seems somehow fair and legitimate.

Nonetheless, it may be irrelevant. While it's troublesome that places like China are ContentFiltering on their end, they may serve by dint of their lawlessness to have themselves banned in piecemiel from server after server on the Internet as frustrated system admins just block all of their Class A's. After all, they aren't generating revenue for us anyway, so there is no loss in business. While we rave on one hand about their human rights violations with respect to FreeSpeech, the reality is that we as a society are moving quietly to throw them off the Internet ourselves.


This section may be more appropriately moved to NetworkDistance-type filter page whenever I figure out what to call it. RouterBan? probably. -- SunirShah

In truth, a RegionalBan will seem harsh and political and really unfair to those inconvenienced. But if we twist OpenProcess, if we just make the process of banning these regions "automatic" with a suitable algorithm, then it's like making these people punch themselves in the face. It's not our fault if they are being annoying, and we have a clear rational process that demonstates quantifiably and objectively how annoying they are.

Because this is the Internet, the algorithm should not be based on geography, but on network topology. If certain parts of the network are out of control, we should just burn those parts of the network out of our clean network. Traffic coming from those parts of the network should just be stopped. This way, the algorithm does not target countries or cultures, but merely behaviour, and specifically to the physical NetEstate that is behaving poorly--undermining MetcalfesLaw.

Since router graphs are DynamicValues, the problem is not a simple one. We need to ForgiveAndForgetInSoftware. Also, compromised machines are a fact of life on the Internet, making the concept of 'region' possibly meaningless. But note there is a cost to compromising machines that is higher than just spamming from an Internet cafe, so even pushing spammers to that level would be an improvement. Plus, the algorithm will blow compromised machines off the Internet as well, which is probably a good thing.

The moral dilemma remains, however: This is group punishment.

Maybe you could take a rather cynical RonaldCoase? style economic model and assume that the market will eventually adjust for this. Spammers in China are polluting the Chinese domain name space. Someone has to pay to clear that up, but most likely those with the greatest incentive are the innocent Chinese who are locked out of our Western discourse. They realize that renting an IP address which is shared-with spammers gets them excluded, which creates a market opportunity for Chinese ISPs that are tough on spammers.

On the other hand, maybe they don't care a jot for our Western discourses on things like MeatBall :-) -- PhilJones

As I understand it, the Chinese situation is based on Internet cafes, not ISPs, so pressuring the cafes requires that they somehow monitor the activity of their patrons, which is impractical if not immoral. By banning the Chinese cafes, we will create ClassStriation between the rich and the poor. From Meatball's point of view, I don't really care because it is unlikely anyone who uses an Internet cafe as their primary means of connection will have anything useful to contribute to our discussion here. But over all it has major drawbacks.

In truth, I don't really know what the political outcome of such a ban is. After all, there are spammers in North America, and we cannot do much to control them. The CAN-SPAM Act in the U.S. even legalized e-mail spam (idiots). I was thinking that suppose I saw someone spamming in from an Internet cafe. What would I do? I could confront them, but in the least violent case they would just go back to it the next day, from another cafe. They could just ignore me.

Spam is not illegal, and it has not been possible to create a law banning spam. It's like that famous legal definition of porn, "I know it when I see it." -- SunirShah


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