And I Thought Alaska Was
"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Benjamin Franklin
I've never been to Alaska, but I sure like watching documentaries about it: The pristine lakes, the beautiful mountains, the wildlife and the magnificent scenery makes me yearn to make a trek to Alaska someday.
And, the last time I looked at a map, I would have sworn that Alaska was still in the good ol' U.S. of A.. But, recently, and I hate to think it, but it appears to me that either there's some kind of insurgency going on up there; or the six months of darkness is really taking a toll. Whatever the cause, it appears that tyranny is rearing its ugly head in Alaskan. Or at least rearing its ugly head at one particular ISP.
Now, you all know, from previous rants, how we feel about ISPs that block, delete, interfere with, meddle with, filter or delete their customer's email without their customer's knowledge (and probably without their explicit permission). We've made it clear, we're not in favor of any sort of censorship - anywhere, for any reason. If you need to refresh your memory, take a quick look here. We think it is the customer's right to receive any email that is addressed to them and furthermore it is customer's responsibilty, not the ISP's to deal with any spam. We've always held the belief that the more control you give to someone else, the more freedoms you will lose. Big Brother is getting too big. And your Big Brother ISP has no more right to interfere your personal correspondence, spam or not, than the postal service has to interfere with your regular mail.
And can you imagine the furor that the postal service would evoke should they suddenly decide that any email in green envelopes is junk mail? Let's say they decided this without informing the millions of postal customers (just like ISPs don't tell their customers exactly what criteria they use to determine what is spam). Now suppose the postal service simply threw all the mail that happened to be in green envelopes in the dumpster. Now let's suppose that your dear aunt Mary, had sent you five crisp $100.00 bills (a really nice birthday present!) in a green envelope. Aunt Mary loves green. Everything she owns is green. She is not and never has been a junk mailer. But she sure loves green.
Your birthday card never arrives because it was in a green envelope. Neither you or aunt Mary know that the postal service is throwing away all mail in green envelopes - they don't have to tell you what they do! The only way you knew it that a birthday card was coming was that aunt Mary said she sent you one. However, you never received it. So who ya gonna blame? Not the postal service. You're going to think aunt Mary is prevaricating or is simply so old she's losing her mind. In the meantime, your crisp $100.00 bills are in a green envelope, in a big, green dumpster, getting ready for a trip to the landfill.
About now you're asking yourself: "What the heck does all this have to do with Alaska and fascism?". Well, you know me. They don't call me "Mr. Get-to-the-point" for nothing!
OK, here's the Alaska stuff.
Last week, we received an eye-popping email from a Smileycons customer, who apparently lives in Alaska, and whose ISP, for whatever reason has decided that email with GIF images, including Smileycons, smacks too much of spam for their liking. So, this particular ISP, not only censors their poor customers' incoming mail, but their outgoing mail as well. Have you ever heard the saying "they got you coming and going" (normally used in reference to the IRS)? This Alaskan ISP has their customers under their thumb - coming and going.
Now you have to read the email sent to the customer from the ISP's "Systems Administrator" and note how skillfully he intimates we are "spammers". This is pretty crafty use of the English language. And, I, for one, am glad they still speak English up there. If the trend set by this ISP continues, no doubt we'll buy all our "Pacific salmon" from Japan. Alaska may stop shipments of salmon to the U.S.A.. Why? They don't need a good reason. Apparently they've gotten so far off-the-hook up there ( too much darkness?) that any crazy reason is good enough.
Anyway, here's the letter that inspired my sarcasm. Note how the Systems Adminstrator uses AP&T (the ISP refers to itself as AP&T maybe the reason is that at first glance might think it says AT&T which would give them a lot more clout than AP & T - or Alaska Power and Telephone. There are lots of subtle nuances in this letter, you have to read it carefully to savor them all. Ready? Savor away!
are usually filled sooner, but please allow 24 hours for your
downloadable information to arrive. Also, make sure you or your ISP do
not have spam filters which may block our mail. If you do, you won't
receive important information about your order or your download
information! Make sure that @smileycons.com is approved in your spam
filter and/or with your ISP!" http://www.smileycons.com/orders.html
At this point you may not be able to use your smileycons, not because we
are trying to censor, but because we have to be very careful about not
relaying anything that resembles spam. That said we are looking into a
few work arounds (sic), but at this point I can't say whether they will work
In the mean time (sic) please accept our apology for the problems and know we
are working on this problem and that we are doing our best to rid the
world of spam.
Honestly, that's the email this "Systems Administrator" wrote to his customer. Did you know that this little ISP, up there somewhere in Alaska, is single-handedly fighting a war on spam? They're going to rid the world of it! They sure are. Darn those Smileycons anyway! Spammers! Commies! Miscreants!
This little ISP has "solved the spam problem". That's what he wants this customer to believe. By restricting his customers freedoms to send emails containing Smileycons or any GIF images, they've solved the spam problem! It reminds me of a great quotation by Marie de Gournay: "Ignorance is the mother of presumption."
Now some of you will see "sour grapes" in the above paragraph. The reference to Smileycons does seem, at first glance, to be rather ethnocentric. I assure you this article is not meant to be self-serving. For Smileycons, are nothing more than gif images - and this ISP censors emails with gif images in them. By making the illogical generalization that gif images in email are indicative of spam, this ISP shows not only arrogance but ignorance.
Just a few minutes ago I intentionally opened ten spam emails to see how many contained images in GIF format. Here's the results:
Six of the spam emails were in plain text
I'm not a math major but I think that means that 20% of the spam used GIF images. But 60% contained no images at all. The next logical step for this ISP, if they want to "rid the world of spam", is to start censoring email based on the content of the text in the message body. According to my unscientific poll, 20% had GIF images, 20% had JPG images, and 60% had no images at all. If this ISP wants to "rid the world of spam" by designating all email containing gif images as spam, then they're missing 60% of the spam. Let me give thanks that I don't have my Internet service though "AP&T" (I just love that!).
Note that Reich Chancellor Schumacher is apparently also the company's propaganda minister. His subtle nuances are second-to-none!
Take this paragraph for example:
The reason why we
scan outbound email for spam is because we have had issues with
users and malicious
This is a wonderful way to say Smileycons is a malicious program without saying so. He needn't have worried though. We never sue anyone! That's why we're broke! But, well done, Führer Matthew! You're a master!
Then the Reich Chancellor tries to use our own words against us. This is an excellent ploy when you defend an untenable or illogical position:
"Please note: All
downloadable orders are filled within 24 hours. Most are usually
filled sooner, but please allow 24 hours for your downloadable
information to arrive. Also, make sure you or your ISP do not have
spam filters which may block our mail. If you do, you won't receive
important information about your order or your download
Matthew, apparently an up and coming propagandist (or former law student) skillfully attempts to use our own words against us. Notice how he makes our notice about ISP spam filtering and censoring email sound like a public admission that we are spammers? A brilliant attempt, I must admit.
But, in reality, we post that notice for those who order Smileycons and complain because we didn't fill their order. Of course we did but after 24 hours no registration mail arrived because (cough! cough!) their ISP has censored and deleted their registration mail.
One more gem from good old Matthew:
"Our intention is not to filter or censor your email, however we must be careful that no spam leaves our network as it will cause very big problems for all of our customers."
See? They're not censoring anything. There defending their poor, computer-illiterate customers from the evils of spam. Yet another web of wonderfully woven words authored by AP&T's "Systems Administrator". He's good, you got to give him that much.
Those who seek to control others or to force their way of thinking upon others always start by taking away freedom in the name of security. It's happening all around the world right now.As Benjamin Franklin so eloquently put it: "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Certainly, the customers of this ISP are giving up essential rights and freedoms for what? For a little extra security? For a little less annoyance? Or is it because censoring and deleting all email containing images, specifically GIF images, is saving this ISP a great deal of bandwidth and, therefore, a great deal of money?
While it is certainly appropriate that ISPs would take steps to ensure that their mail servers (which are their property) are not used to send spam. It is clear, at least to me, that taking away an individual's right to send pictures in email, be they GIF, JPG, PNG, or BMP, is not likely to prevent spam.
We will never know what Matthew's real reasons are for restricting his customer's right to send images in their personal emails are - but one thing I'm sure of it is not the way to prevent spammers from using their mail servers. Most ISPs detect a customer who uses a mail server to send mass-mailings to hundreds of thousands of people. This is a sure sign that someone is spamming and easy for an ISP to detect. And, this is the correct approach. Preventing Pam, or Mary Jo, or Bill, from sending pictures of their kids or pets or Smileycons, or anything else they like - does nothing to prevent spammers from using an ISPs network, but it does save the ISP a lot of bandwidth - and therefore a lot of money. I'm thinking that the Reich Chancellor is obfuscating the real reasons for censoring GIF images. To define spam in such a way is ignorant. I would hope that a "Systems Administrator" of an ISP could not be that computer-stupid and still retain such a responsible position.
I've warned you before that if people didn't start standing up and complaining to their ISPs about censorship, it was going to get worse. It has been a fact of life on the Internet for many years now that some ISPs arbitrarily filter (censor) incoming mail. With most ISPs who censor incoming email, the mail that is censored is simply deleted and the intended recipient is totally unaware of it. Email addressed to you belongs to you. Email sent by you belongs to you. You are responsible for what you send. It's your personal property. Emails addressed to you are your personal property. How could it be any other way. Just because this is a virtual world does not me the laws and precedents of the real world should not apply.
Imagine if a letter you sent through the USPS became the property of the USPS the minute you dropped it into the mail box? Imagine that a letter addressed to you was the property of the USPS the minute the sender dropped it in the mail box. The USPS has no right to throw away mail addressed to you just because, in their opinion, it is junk. What may be junk to someone else, may not be junk to you. At some point the rules of the real world have to become the rules of the virtual world where they can be made to apply. And where the rules of the real world, which have evolved over hundreds of years of civilization cannot be made to apply to the virtual world, then they need to be modified so they can apply. For some reason, ISP think that because mail passes through their servers that it somehow magically becomes their property to do with as they see fit. This cannot be allowed to become law. It is not logical - think about it. Each person should be responsible for what they send and what they receive.
I understand ISPs do not want their servers to be used for sending spam. But common sense alone should be enough to guide you to conclude that blocking all email containing GIF images as a way to stop spammer from using a certain mail server, is ludicrous at best and smacks of dishonesty. There's a real reason why this ISP chose to block its customers from sending images in email - but I don't believe it was to "rid the world of spam". Do you?
In every Alaskan town where this ISP operates, a giant step toward total email censorship has been taken. This ISP is not only censoring what a customer can receive, but also what a customer can send. And it's would not take a giant leap of logic for us to see where this may lead. What happens when they decide certain words are indicative of spam and start censoring email based on the content of the email message body? What happens if the Reich Chancellor decides that the words "Happy Birthday" are indicative of spam.
Once the censorship snowball gets rolling, and the more people tolerate it, it will just keep getting bigger and bigger.
Speaking of snowballs, I hope this ISP stays in Alaska - far away from the mainstream ISPs. But, maybe nowhere is far enough away for their kind of thinking. AP&T may be much better suited for the country just across the Bering Straits. At least they wouldn't be practicing their brand of fascism on U.S. soil.
We hope the rest of Alaska will not follow this ISP's lead. If they do Alaska's next step may be to secede from the United States. That would be a shame. Because Alaska looks like a wonderful place. We can only hope that this ISP remains the exception and does not become the rule in Alaska - or anywhere else.
Oh, yes, and by-the-way, did I mention the name of this ISP? I didn't? Oh, well, here it is!
Alaska Power and Telephone (AP&T)
You might want to drop them a line and tell them what you think before they start telling you what to think. And tell Matthew that TC sent ya!*
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