The Kinder Gap: Faceless on the Net

  1. Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
  2. The Kinder Gap
  3. The Underground Highway

Anonymity is another feature coming into use on the net. For example, you can use the “secret admirer” web page to send a message to your secret love. Completely anonymously: they’re informed that a close friend wants to ask them out.

They, in turn, are requested to send a message to whoever among their friends they’d like to go out with.

If there’s a match, you’re in luck. The computer lets you know that the coast is clear. If not, well, “” allows you to send out three such messages at a time. If at first you don’t succeed... (this is, of course, a thinly-disguised method of grabbing e-mail addresses for spamming purposes)

Other ways of sending anonymous messages are through ‘anonymous re-mailers’. These will take your message, strip off your name and e-mail address, and re-send it to the desired people. The recipients don’t know who you are (unless you say so in the body of the letter), but they can reply to you. Their reply goes to the anonymous re-mailer, which remembers who you are and diverts the message to you. If you want an even greater level of security, you can tell the re-mailer not to keep track of who you are. Of course, if you do that then no one can reply to your messages.

This kind of anonymity is not very reliable. At the simplest level, theses re-mailers are provided as a service by someone you don’t know. There’s nothing stopping the government or other organization from advertising an anonymous re-mailer and then keeping track of everything that goes through it. If you allow the anonymous re-mailer to keep track of you, an organization with decent resources can track who you are by replying to your message and intercepting what comes out of the other end of the re-mailer. When their reply comes out, it’s got your address on it. And an organization with a lot of resources, such as the federal government, can track all messages going into and out of re-mailers, and match the bodies of the letters. It requires that they think it important, but...

Here’s a message that came across the net in June, 1994:

From: [s--o--a] at []
Newsgroups: talk.politics.guns
Subject: A Letter from within the NSA
Date: 30 Jun 1994 14:26:43 GMT

Hello all,

	I decited to try to learn how to use the anonymous server.
I sent two test messages to a friend (successfully) and got back this message
as well:  (*-marks something I blanked out)


From:   MX%”[an 109803] at []”
To:     STORA
Subj:   Re: none

To: [s--o--a] at []
From: [an 109803] at []
Organization: Anonymous contact service
Reply-To: [an 109803] at []
Date: Thu, 30 Jun 1994 02:34:49 UTC
Subject: Re: none

I am a pro-privacy political sabatour within the NSA.  I am warning all new
users of anonymous mailers about NSA traffic watching.  We listen to all
messages passing through certain intermediate nodes and compare them with
messsages leaving anonymous services. We are able to trace 70% of all
messages.  I suggest that you be careful and not send any illegal material via
anonymous mailers.  You endanger both yourself and the recipient.

The following mail was traced back to you:


To find out more about the anon service, send mail to [h--p] at []
Due to the double-blind, any mail replies to this message will be anonymized,
and an anonymous id will be allocated automatically. You have been warned.
Please report any problems, inappropriate use etc. to [a--m--n] at []


Interesting, huh?


Is it real? Who knows? But it could be. Most people on the net simply assume that the NSA or some other government organization is ‘watching over us.’ There has long been a legend that the NSA runs the entire Usenet ‘feed’ through a computer, and searches for specific keywords. Some netizens even attempt to play around with this legendary net tap by including ‘suspect’ words in their posts, usually in their signature. Words like “revolution”, “assassination”, “kill”, and “Clinton”, placed in a random order so that they don’t mean anything when read by a human, but will set off the computers that are supposedly looking for that sort of thing.

Personally, I would hope that the NSA has better things to do than listen to me talk about comic books. Then again, if there are jobs inside the NSA that involve nothing but reading Usenet, where can I apply?

Who uses them?

Why do people want to use anonymous re-mailers? Not everyone lives in the United States; it’s something that most netizens who do live in the United States need to be reminded of often:

From: [an 225037] at [] (Baloo)
Reply-To: [an 225037] at []
Date: Tue, 16 May 1995 23:15:51 UTC
Subject: Turn in pedo writers

[wl minx xso] at [] writes:
>       I believe there is such a thing as freedom of speech, etc.  I
>dont think it’s against the law to write pedo stories, is it?  I
>honestly dont know but if it IS it would seem that would violate the
>American Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech?
>       IS it against the law to write/posess pedo stories?

For those of us who do not live in the U.S. there is no constitution,
and no freedom of speach.  My stories would be deemed obscene, and 
get me a jail sentence or large fine if found openly on my computer.
The same can be said for many countries, and in some the sentence could
be far greater, including death.  

This does not only cover pedo stories, it may also be homosexual ones,
and in some places, heterosexual as well.  Life is dangerous, and one
of the last places available for world wide free speach is the internet.
Gaurd it with all your might, for when it goes, a silence will fall over
the world, which will never be regained.

Please remember, the net is world wide, and America not everyones dream.

To find out more about the anon service, send mail to [h--p] at []
If you reply to this message, your message WILL be *automatically* anonymized
and you are allocated an anon id. Read the help file to prevent this.
Please report any problems, inappropriate use etc. to [a--m--n] at []

“Baloo” is posting via the most common anonymous re-mailer, Most of the commonly used re-mailers seem to be in Finland, which is what the “fi” suffix in the hostname stands for. Many of the stories on the discussion group are posted via anonymous re-mailers. The “pedo”, “homosexual”, and “heterosexual” that Baloo is talking about are stories. The written word. “Pedo” is “pedophilia”, which in this case means stories about sex between children and adults. Sometimes the stories involve consensual sex, sometimes it involves rape, and sometimes it even involves murder. But it’s still just a story. There are no pictures, sound, nor film. No “snuff novels” have been posted to the net. With regards to a filed Carnegie Mellon University policy restricting access to the “.sex” newsgroups, an Alleghany county assistant district attorney said that there wasn’t “a chance in a million” he could win an obscenity case against a written work. (?) The state of our current pornography law is that the written word is sacred: writing cannot be obscene.

Excepting written laws, of course. At one time, people in other countries looked to America as a bastion of freedom, something to be emulated. Now, with the Internet, those same people can, as Baloo has done, actually read what our politicians think about freedom. What they read knocks America from her pedestal. That’s obscene writing.

  1. Philip Elmer-Dewitt, “ Censoring Cyberspace “, Time, November 21, 1994 Volume 144, No. 21.
  1. Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
  2. The Kinder Gap
  3. The Underground Highway