The Joy of Handles
Mahatma Kane Jeeves
David Lescohier

                         THE JOY OF HANDLES
                     (but have no right to ask)

                            *  *  *  *  *

    We should never so entirely avoid danger as to appear
    irresolute and cowardly.  But, at the same time, we should
    avoid unnecessarily exposing ourselves to danger, than
    which nothing can be more foolish.  [Cicero]

                            *  *  *  *  *

    Do you trust me?

    If you participate in computer conferencing, and you use
    your real name, then you'd better.

    "Why?", you ask.  "What can you do with my name?"  To start
    with, given that and your origin line, I can probably look
    you up in your local phone book, and find out where you
    live.  Even if you are unlisted, there are ways to locate
    you based on your name.  If you own any property, or pay any
    utility bills, your address is a matter of public record.
    Do you have children in the public schools?  It would be
    easy to find out.  But that's just the beginning.

    Former Chairman of the U.S. Privacy Protection Commission
    David F. Linowes, in his book "Privacy in America" (1989),
    writes of New York private investigator Irwin Blye:

        "Challenged to prove his contention that, given a little
        time and his usual fee, he could learn all about an
        individual without even speaking with him, Blye was
        presented with a subject -- a New Jersey
        newspaperman....  The result was a five-page, single-
        spaced, typed report which documented, though not always
        accurately, a wide sweep of the journalist's past, and
        was detailed to the point of disclosing his father's
        income before his retirement."

    Who am I?  If I don't post, you might not even know I exist.
    I could be on your local Police Department, or an agent
    working with the IRS, or some federal law-enforcement
    agency.  I could be a member of some fanatical hate group,
    or criminal organization.  I might even be a former Nixon
    White-House staffer!

    I could be that pyromaniacal teenager you flamed last
    weekend, for posting a step-by-step description of how he
    made plastic explosive in his high-school chem lab.  He
    seemed kind of mad.

    But you're an upstanding citizen; you have nothing to hide.
    So why not use your name on the nets?  Trust me.  There's
    nothing to worry about.

    Is there?

                            *  *  *  *  *

                      WHAT'S ALL THIS BROUHAHA?

          Stupidity is evil waiting to happen.  [Clay Bond]

    Not long ago in Fidonet's BCSNET echo (the Boston Computer
    Society's national conference), the following was posted by
    the conference moderator to a user calling himself "Captain

          "May we ask dear Captain Kirk that it would be very
          polite if you could use your real name in an echomail
          conference? This particular message area is shared
          with BBS's all across the country and everyone else is
          using their real name. It is only common courtesy to
          do so in an echomail conference."

    One of us (mkj) responded with a post questioning that
    policy.  Soon the conference had erupted into a heated
    debate!  Although mkj had worried that the subject might be
    dismissed as trivial, it apparently touched a nerve.  It
    brought forth debate over issues and perceptions central to
    computer communications in general, and it revealed profound
    disparities in fundamental values and assumptions among

    This article is a response to that debate, and to the
    prevailing negative attitudes regarding the use of handles.
    Handles seem to have a bad reputation.  Their use is
    strangely unpopular, and frequently forbidden by network
    authorities.  Many people seem to feel that handles are rude
    or dishonest, or that anyone wishing to conceal his or her
    identity must be up to no good.  It is the primary purpose
    of this article to dispel such prejudices.

    Let us make one thing perfectly clear here at the outset: We
    do NOT challenge the need or the right of sysops to know the
    identities of their users!  But we do believe that a sysop
    who collects user names has a serious responsibility to
    protect that information.  This means making sure that no
    one has access to the data without a legal warrant, and it
    certainly means not pressuring users to broadcast their real
    names in widespread public forums such as conferences.

    [A note from Strange at the Salted Slug: This is blatant hogwash.
    If they have a warrant, NOTHING is going to stop the authorities
    (usually the secret service) from taking your stuff before you
    can touch it. I know of many sysops who have had their equipment
    taken between 4 and 6 in the morning. Granted, these were people
    who had illicit informaiton on their systems, but how do you know
    that I don't? Do you trust me? Moreover, the agents of our
    government are not omnicient. They have made few prominent
    mistakes. And many many other mistakes that you will never hear

      If the system is taken by the government, you could be an
    accomplice. If it's taken by a burgular, who knows where it's
    going to end up? If the sysop loans out his backup to a friend
    for other purposes, who knows where your name will land? (This
    last scenario took place not more than a week ago on another
    system (9/15/92).]

                            *  *  *  *  *

                      SO YOU WANT TO BE A STAR?

             John Lennon died for our sins.  [anonymous]

    Andy Warhol said that "In the future, everyone will be
    famous for fifteen minutes".  The computer nets, more than
    any other medium, lend credibility to this prediction.  A
    network conference may span the globe more completely than
    even satellite TV, yet be open to anyone who can afford the
    simplest computer and modem. Through our participation in
    conferencing, each of us becomes, if only briefly, a public
    figure of sorts -- often without realizing it, and without
    any contemplation of the implications and possible

    Brian Reid (reid@decwrl.DEC.COM) conducts and distributes
    periodic surveys of Usenet conference readership.  His
    statistical results for the end of 1991 show that of the
    1,459 conferences which currently make up Usenet, more than
    fifty percent have over 20,000 readers apiece; the most
    popular conferences are each seen by about 200,000 readers!
    Mr. Reid's estimate of total Usenet readership is nearly TWO
    MILLION people.

    Note that Mr. Reid's numbers are for Usenet only; they do
    not include any information on other large public nets such
    as RIME (PC-Relaynet), Fido, or dozens of others, nor do
    they take into account thousands of private networks which
    may have indirect public network connections. The total
    number of users with access to public networks is unknown,
    but informed estimates range to the tens of millions, and
    the number keeps growing at an amazing pace -- in fact, the
    rate of growth of this medium may be greater than any other
    communications medium in history.

    The special problems and risks which arise when one deals
    with a large public audience are something about which most
    computer users have little or no experience or
    understanding.  Until recently, those of us involved in
    computer conferencing have comprised a small and rather
    elite community.  The explosion in network participation is
    catching us all a little unprepared.

    Among media professionals and celebrities, on the other
    hand, the risks of conducting one's business in front of a
    public audience are all too familiar.  If the size of one's
    audience becomes sufficiently large, one must assume that
    examples of virtually every personality type will be
    included: police and other agents of various governments,
    terrorists, murderers, rapists, religious fanatics, the
    mentally ill, robbers and con artists, et al ad infinitum.
    It must also be assumed that almost anything you do, no
    matter how innocuous, could inspire at least one person,
    somewhere, to harbor ill will toward you.

    The near-fatal stabbing of actress Theresa Saldana is a case
    in point. As she was walking to her car one morning near her
    West Hollywood apartment, a voice behind her asked, "Are you
    Theresa Saldana?"; when she turned to answer, a man she had
    never seen before pulled out a kitchen knife and stabbed her

    After her lengthy and painful recovery, she wrote a book on
    the experience ("Beyond Survival", 1986).  In that book she

         [pg 12]  "... Detective Kalas informed me that the
         assailant, whom he described as a Scottish drifter, had
         fixated upon me after seeing me in films."

         [pg 28]  "... it was through my work as an actress that
         the attacker had fixated on me.  Naturally, this made
         me consider getting out of show business ..."

         [pg 34]  "For security, I adopted an alias and became
         'Alicia Michaels.'  ... during the months that followed
         I grew so accustomed to it that, to this day, I still
         answer reflexively when someone calls the name Alicia!"

    Or consider the fate of Denver radio talk show host Alan
    Berg, who in 1984 died outside his home in a hail of
    gunfire.  Police believe he was the victim of a local neo-
    nazi group who didn't like his politics.

    We are reminded of the murders of John Lennon and Rebecca
    Shaffer; the Reagan/Hinckley/Foster incident; and a long
    string of other "celebrity attacks" of all sorts, including
    such bizarre events as the occupation of David Letterman's
    home by a strange woman who claimed to be his wife! There is
    probably no one in public life who doesn't receive at least
    the occasional threatening letter.

    Of course, ordinary participants in network conferencing may
    never attract quite the attention that other types of
    celebrities attract. But consider the following, rather less
    apocalyptic scenarios:

        --  On Friday night you post a message to a public
            conference defending an unpopular or controversial
            viewpoint.  On Monday morning your biggest client
            cancels a major contract. Or you are kept up all
            night by repeated telephone calls from someone
            demanding that you "stop killing babies"!

        --  You buy your teenage son or daughter a computer and
            modem.  Sometime later you find your lawn littered
            with beer bottles and dug up with tire marks, or
            your home vandalized or burglarized.

        --  One day you are nominated to the Supreme Court.  Who
            are all these strange people on TV claiming to be
            your friends? How did that fellow know your position
            on abortion?  Your taste in GIFs?

    Celebrities and other professional media personalities
    accept the risks and sacrifices of notoriety, along with the
    benefits, as part of their chosen careers.  Should computer
    conference participants be expected to do the same?  And who
    should be making these decisions?

                            *  *  *  *  *

                             OTHER MEDIA

      When thou art at Rome, do as they do at Rome  [Cervantes]

    Older media seem to address the problems of privacy very
    differently than computer media, at least so far.  We are
    not aware of ANY medium or publication, apart from computer
    conferencing, where amateur or even most professional
    participants are required to expose their true names against
    their will.  Even celebrities frequently use "stage names",
    and protect their addresses and phone numbers as best they

    When a medium caters specifically to the general public,
    participants are typically given even greater opportunities
    to protect their privacy. Television talk shows have been
    known to go so far as to employ silhouetting and electronic
    alteration of voices to protect the identities of guests,
    and audience members who participate are certainly not
    required to state their full names before speaking.

    The traditional medium most analogous to computer
    conferencing may be talk radio.  Like conferencing, talk
    radio is a group discussion and debate medium oriented
    toward controversy, where emotions can run high. Programs
    often center around a specific topic, and are always run by
    a "host" whose role seems analogous in many respects to that
    of a conference moderator.  It is therefore worth noting
    that in talk radio generally, policy seems to be that
    callers are identified on the air only by their first names
    (unless of course they volunteer more).

    Finally, of course, authors have published under "pen names"
    since the dawn of publishing, and newspapers and magazines
    frequently publish letters to the editor with "name and
    address withheld by request" as the signature line. Even
    founding fathers Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John
    Jay, in authoring the seminal Federalist Papers in 1787 for
    publication in the Letters columns of various New York City
    newspapers, concealed their identities behind the now-famous
    pseudonym "Publius".

    What would you think if someone called a radio talk show
    demanding to know the identity of a previous caller?  Such a
    demand would undoubtedly be seen as menacing and
    inappropriate in that context.  Yet that same demand seems
    to arise without much challenge each time a handle shows up
    in a computer conference.  The authors of this article feel
    that such demands should always be looked upon as
    suspicious, and that it would be beneficial for moderators
    to take upon themselves the responsibility of making sure
    that besieged handle-users are aware of their right to
    refuse such inappropriate demands.

    It is reasonable to assume that privacy policies in
    traditional media are the result of hard-won wisdom gained
    from long experience.  Are we so arrogant that we cannot
    learn from others?  It is not hard to imagine the sorts of
    problems and experiences which shaped these policies in the
    old media.  Will we have to wait for similar problems to
    occur on the computer networks before we learn?

                            *  *  *  *  *

                      PRIVACY AND SURVEILLANCE

            In an effort to identify people who fail to file tax
            returns, the Internal Revenue Service is matching
            its files against available lists of names and
            addresses of U.S. citizens who have purchased
            computers for home use. The IRS continues to seek
            out sources for such information. This information
            is matched against the IRS master file of taxpayers
            to see if those who have not filed can be
                                    [COMPUTERWORLD, Sept. 1985]

            Date: Thu, 23 May 91 11:58:07 PDT
            Subject: The RISKS of Posting to the Net
            I just had an interesting visit from the FBI.  It
            seems that a posting I made to several
            months ago had filtered through channels, caused the
            FBI to open (or re-open) a file on me, and an agent
            wanted to interview me, which I did voluntarily...
            I then went on to tell him about the controversy
            over Uunet, and their role in supplying archives of
            Usenet traffic on tape to the FBI...
            [RISKS Digest]

            Also frequent are instances where computers are
            seized incident to an unrelated arrest.  For
            example, on February 28, 1991, following an arrest
            on charges of rape and battery, the Massachusetts
            state and local police seized the suspect's computer
            equipment.  The suspect reportedly operated a 650-
            subscriber bulletin board called "BEN," which is
            described as "geared largely to a gay/leather/S&M
            crowd."  It is not clear what the board's seizure is
            supposed to have accomplished, but the board is now
            shut down, and the identities and messages of its
            users are in the hands of the police.

                      FILES IN THE AGE OF CYBERSPACE, Harvey A.
                      Silverglate and Thomas C. Viles]

    Most of us have been brought up to be grateful for the fact
    that we live in a nation where freedom is sacred.  In other
    countries, we are told as children, people are afraid to
    speak their minds for fear they are being watched.  Thank
    God we live in America!

    It would surprise most of us to learn that America is
    currently among the premiere surveillance nations in the
    world, but such, sadly, is indeed the case.  Our leadership
    in technology has helped the U.S. government to amass as
    much information on its citizens as almost any other nation
    in history, totalitarian or otherwise.  And to make matters
    worse, a consumer surveillance behemoth has sprung up
    consisting of huge private data-collection agencies which
    cater to business.

    As Evan Hendricks, editor of "Privacy Times" (a Washington
    D.C.-based newsletter) has put it: "You go through life
    dropping bits and pieces of information about yourself
    everywhere.  Most people don't realize there are big vacuum
    cleaners out there sucking it all up."  [Wall Street
    Journal, March 14, 1991].

    To get an idea of how much of your privacy has already been
    lost, consider the bits and pieces of information about
    yourself which are already available to investigators, and
    how thoroughly someone might come to know you by these clues

    A person's lifestyle and personality are largely described,
    for example, by his or her purchases and expenses; from your
    checking account records -- which banks are required by law
    to keep and make available to government investigators -- a
    substantial portrait of your life will emerge. Credit card
    records may reveal much of the same information, and can
    also be used to track your movements. (In a recent case,
    "missing" Massachusetts State Representative Timothy O'Leary
    was tracked by credit-card transactions as he fled across
    the country, and his movements were reported on the nightly

    Then there are your school records, which include IQ and
    other test results, [Unless you specified otherwise, and
    signed a waiver, your school records at any UC system
    school are public information (this includes evaluations)
    -Strange] comments on your "socialization" by
    teachers and others, and may reveal family finances in great
    detail.  Employment and tax records reveal your present
    income, as well as personal comments by employers and co-
    workers.  Your properties are another public record of your
    income and lifestyle, and possibly your social status as
    well. Telephone billing records reveal your personal and
    business associations in more detail. Insurance records
    reveal personal and family health histories and treatments.

    All of this information is commonly accessed by government
    and private or corporate investigators.  And this list is
    far from exhaustive!

    Now consider how easily the computer networks lend
    themselves to even further erosions of personal privacy. The
    actual contents of our mail and telephone traffic have up to
    now been subjected to deliberate scrutiny only under
    extraordinary conditions. This built-in safety is due
    primarily to the difficulty and expense of conducting
    surveillance in these media, which usually requires extended
    human intervention. But in the medium of computer
    communications, most surveillance can be conducted using
    automated monitoring techniques. Tools currently available
    make it possible and even cost-effective for government and
    other interests to monitor virtually everything which
    happens here.

    Why would anyone want to monitor network users?  It is well
    documented that, throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the FBI and
    other agencies of government, in operations such as the
    infamous COINTELPRO among others, spent a great deal of time
    and effort collecting vast lists of names. As Computer
    Underground Digest moderators Jim Thomas and Gordon Meyer
    recalled in a recent commentary (CuD #3.42):

        "A 1977 class action suit against the Michigan State
        Police learned, through FOIA requests, that state and
        federal agents would peruse letters to the editor of
        newspapers and collect clippings of those whose politics
        they did not like. These news clippings became the basis
        of files on those persons that found there way into the
        hands of other agencies and employers."

        [In 1955 this was called "Blackballing" and was done by
        McCarthy - Strange]

    To get onto one of these government "enemies" lists, you
    often needed to do nothing more than telephone an
    organization under surveillance, or subscribe to the "wrong"
    types of magazines and newspapers. Groups engaged in
    political activism, including environmental and women's
    rights organizations, were commonly infiltrated.  The sort
    of investigative reporting which uncovered these lists and
    surveillances back in the '60s and '70s is now rare, but
    there is little reason to assume that such activities have
    ceased or even slowed.  In fact, progressive computerization
    of local police LEIU activities (Law Enforcement
    Intelligence Units, commonly known as "red squads") suggests
    that such activities may have greatly increased.

    Within the realm of computer conferencing especially, there
    is ample reason to believe that systematic monitoring is
    being conducted by government and law-enforcement
    organizations, and perhaps by other hostile interests as
    well.  In a recent issue of Telecom Digest
    (comp.dcom.telecom), Craig Neidorf (knight@EFF.ORG) reported
    on the results of a recent Freedom of Information Act
    request for documents from the Secret Service:

        " ... The documents also show that the Secret Service
        established a computer database to keep track of
        suspected computer hackers.  This database contains
        records of names, aliases, addresses, phone numbers,
        known associates, a list of activities, and various
        [conference postings] associated with each individual."

    But the privacy issues which surround computer
    communications go far beyond the collection of user lists.
    Both government and industry have long pursued the elusive
    grail of personality profiling on citizens and consumers. Up
    to now, such ambitions have been restrained by the practical
    difficulty and expense of collecting and analyzing large
    amounts of information on large numbers of citizens.  But
    computer communications, more than any other technology,
    seems to hold out the promise that this unholy grail may
    finally be in sight.

    To coin a phrase, never has so much been known by so few
    about so many. The information commonly available to
    government and industry investigators today is sufficient
    to make reliable predictions about our personalities,
    health, politics, future behavior, our vulnerabilities,
    perhaps even about our innermost thoughts and feelings.  The
    privacy we all take for granted is, in fact, largely an
    illusion; it no longer exists in most walks of life.  If we
    wish to preserve even the most basic minimum of personal
    privacy, it seems clear that we need to take far better care
    on the networks than we have taken elsewhere.

                            *  *  *  *  *


            Human beings are the only species with a history.
            Whether they also have a future is not so obvious.
            The answer will lie in the prospects for popular
            movements, with firm roots among all sectors of the
            population, dedicated to values that are suppressed
            or driven to the margins within the existing social
            and political order...
                                    [Noam Chomsky]

    In your day-to-day social interactions, as you deal with
    employers, clients, public officials, friends, acquaintances
    and total strangers, how often do you feel you can really
    speak freely?  How comfortable are you discussing
    controversial issues such as religion, taxes, politics,
    racism, sexuality, abortion or AIDS, for example?  Would you
    consider it appropriate or wise to express an honest opinion
    on such an issue to your boss, or a client?  To your

    Most of us confine such candid discussions to certain
    "trusted" social contexts, such as when we are among our
    closest friends.  But when you post to a network conference,
    your boss, your clients, and your neighbors may very well
    read what you post -- if they are not on the nets today,
    they probably will be soon, as will nearly everyone.

    If we have to consider each post's possible impact on our
    social and professional reputations, on our job security and
    income, on our family's acceptance and safety in the
    community, it could be reckless indeed to express ourselves
    freely on the nets.  Yet conferences are often geared to
    controversy, and inhibitions on the free expression of
    opinions can reduce traffic to a trickle, killing off an
    important conference topic or distorting a valuable sampling
    of public opinion.

    More important still is the role computer networks are
    beginning to play in the free and open dissemination of news
    and information. Democracy is crippled if dissent and
    diversity in the media are compromised; yet even here in the
    U.S., where a "free press" is a cherished tradition, the
    bulk of all the media is owned by a small (and ever-
    shrinking) number of corporations, whose relatively narrow
    culture, interests and perspectives largely shape the
    public perception.

    Computer communication, on the other hand, is by its nature
    very difficult to control or shape.  Its resources are
    scattered; when one BBS goes bust (or is busted!), three
    others spring up in its place.  The natural resiliency of
    computer communications (and other new, decentralized
    information technologies such as fax, consumer camcorders
    and cheap satellite links) is giving rise to a new brand of
    global "guerrilla journalism" which includes everyone, and
    defies efforts at suppression.

    The power and value of this new journalistic freedom has
    recently shown itself during the Gulf War, and throughout
    Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, as well as within the
    U.S.  Just think of the depth and detail of information
    available on the nets regarding the Secret Service's recent
    "Operation Sundevil" and associated activities, compared to
    the grossly distorted, blatantly propagandistic coverage of
    those same activities given to the general public through
    the traditional media.

    Historically, established power and wealth have seldom been
    disposed to tolerate uncontrolled media, and recent events
    in this country and elsewhere show that computer media are
    sometimes seen as threats to established interests as well.
    To understand the role of handles in this context, it is
    useful to note the flurries of anti-handle sentiment which
    have arisen in the wake of crackdowns such as Sundevil, or
    the Tom Tcimpidis raid in the early 1980s.  Although few
    charges and fewer convictions have typically resulted from
    such operations, one might be tempted to speculate that the
    real purposes -- to terrorize the nets and chill freedoms of
    speech and assembly thereon -- have been achieved.

    In this way, sysops and moderators become unwitting
    accomplices in the suppression of freedom on the networks.
    When real name requirements are instituted, anyone who fears
    retaliation of any sort, by any group, will have to fear
    participation in the nets; hence content is effectively
    controlled.  This consideration becomes especially important
    as the nets expand into even more violent and repressive
    countries outside the U.S.

    We must decide whether freedom of information and open
    public discussion are in fact among the goals of network
    conferencing, and if so, whether handles have a role in
    achieving these goals.  As access to the networks grows, we
    have a rare opportunity to frustrate the efforts of
    governments and corporations to control the public mind!  In
    this way above all others, computers may have the potential
    to shape the future of all mankind for the better.

                            *  *  *  *  *

                          A CALL TO ACTION

           The move to electronic communication may be a turning
           point that history will remember.  Just as in
           seventeenth and eighteenth century Great Britain and
           America a few tracts and acts set precedents for
           print by which we live today, so what we think and do
           today may frame the information system for a
           substantial period in the future.
            [Ithiel de Sola Pool, "Technologies of Freedom", 1983]

    There was a time when anybody with some gear and a few
    batteries could become a radio broadcaster -- no license
    required.  There was a time when anyone with a sense of
    adventure could buy a plane, and maybe get a contract to
    carry mail.  Those early technological pioneers were
    probably unable to imagine the world as it is today, but
    their influence is strongly felt in current laws,
    regulations and policies with roots in the traditions and
    philosophies they founded and shaped.

    Today the new pioneers are knitting the world together with
    computers, and the world is changing faster than ever.  Law
    and ethics are scrambling to keep up.  How far will this
    growth take us?  No one can say for sure.  But you don't
    need a crystal ball to see that computer communications has
    the potential to encompass and surpass all the functionality
    of prior media -- print, post, telegraph, telephone, radio
    and television -- and more.  It seems reasonable to assume
    that computer communications will be at least as ubiquitous
    and important in the lives of our grandchildren as all the
    older media have been in ours.

    It will be a world whose outlines we can now make out only
    dimly.  But the foundations of that world are being built
    today by those of us exploring and homesteading on the
    electronic frontier.  We need to look hard at what it will
    take to survive in the information age.

    In this article we have attempted to show, for one very
    narrow issue, what some of the stakes may be in this future-
    building game.  But the risks associated with exposing your
    name in a computer conference are not well defined, and
    various people will no doubt assess the importance of these
    risks differently.  After all, most of us take risks every
    day which are probably greater than the risks associated
    with conferencing. We drive on the expressway.  We eat
    sushi.  To some people, the risks of conferencing may seem
    terrifying; to others, insignificant.

    But let us not get side-tracked into unresolvable arguments
    on the matter.  The real issue here is not how dangerous
    conferencing may or may not be; it is whether you and I will
    be able to make our own decisions, and protect ourselves (or
    not) as we see fit.  The obvious answer is that users must
    exercise their collective power to advance their own
    interests, and to pressure sysops and moderators to become
    more sensitive to user concerns.

    To help in that effort, we would like to recommend the
    following guidelines for user action:

        --  Bear in mind John Perry Barlow's observation that
            "Liberties are preserved by using them".  Let your
            sysop know that you would prefer to be using a
            handle, and use one wherever you can.

        --  Try to support boards and conferences which allow
            handles, and avoid those which don't.

        --  When using a handle, BEHAVE RESPONSIBLY!  There will
            always be irresponsible users on the nets, and they
            will always use handles.  It is important for the
            rest of us to fight common anti-handle prejudices by
            showing that handles are NOT always the mark of an
            irresponsible user!

        --  Educate others about the importance of handles (but
            NEVER argue or flame anyone about it).

    To sysops and moderators: We ask you to bear in mind that
    authority is often used best where it is used least.  Grant
    users the right to engage in any harmless and responsible
    behaviors they choose.  Protect your interests in ways which
    tread as lightly as possible upon the interests of others.
    The liberties you preserve may be your own!

    In building the computer forums of today, we are building
    the social fabric of tomorrow.  If we wish to preserve the
    free and open atmosphere which has made computer networking
    a powerful force, while at the same time taking care against
    the risks inherent in such a force, handles seem to be a
    remarkably harmless, entertaining and effective tool to help
    us.  Let's not throw that tool away.