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Running a BBS



Messages aren't posted on your BBS until you clear them??  Did I read
that right?  Wow.  I can see why you spend 20 hours a week sysoping your
board.  Methinks you take paranoia to impressive heights, Jerry.  Plus,
in all deference, I don't know what makes you an authority on what's
legal that you can 'judge' the notes of others and/or censor their
private conversations.  Dangerous precedence here.  What constitutes
"illegal"?  What if someone is posting notes on how to write
prescriptions for barbiturates, or morphine?  Maybe a college kid knows
how to swipe a prescription pad or some blank prescription sheets from
his doctor's desk but doesn't know how to fill them out?  So he asks?
And someone replies.  On the other hand, maybe he's asking for
legitimate reasons.  He doesn't owe 'you' an explanation.  The person
with the knowledge should be prudent enough to ask him why he wants this
information but it's not 'your' obligation if he doesn't.  People post
notes on how to pick locks.  (I just went through a series of notes-
swapping seeking information on how to crack a particular safe per a
movie I'm writing.)  How would you know I'm not really planning to rob
Tiffany's?  On the other hand, would you deprive me of the medium to get
some research done for my screenplay?

I've since done my own research on this topic (because my company has a
BBS and I was curious) and have been informed by legal council as well
as the FBI that as long as a sysop isn't knowingly partaking in illegal
activities, he's clear (which has been my sentiment all along).  There
still remains the open-end of slander that has yet to be resolved (if I
say Bill Gates screws prostitutes, or something like that, the editorial
informality of BBSes and context could make it tough to slap a libel
suit on me), let alone the matter of individuals conducting
conversations in private notes.  Personally, if a person is SO STUPID to
conduct illegal activities via BBS (within the purview of non
participants), he deserves to be busted.  The least he could do is send
stolen credit card numbers to his colleagues via FAX or encrypted note
or file.  (Don't tell me you don't allow people to send encoded notes to
one another on your BBS, too, such as via password-protected .ZIP
files.)  Moreover, I'm told, it's not incumbent upon a sysop to read
notes posted on his BBS.  If he reads notes (some or all) and encounters
what he 'thinks' are clear-cut violations of law, he need only inform
the participants of his sentiment and ask that they desist.

A BBS is but a tiny dot of a medium compared to the news nets such as
USENET, ARPANET, et al. which traffic in tens of thousands of notes per
day, worldwide.  One source of node-feed are BBSes (as well as
universities, research centers, hospitals, and so forth).  Which sysop
is liable when a (genuinely) illegal note winds up on 40,000 boards?
Forty thousand sysops??  The university where the note may have
originated from??  Nope.  The person liable is the person who sent the
note.  That's about the only prosecutable distance this whole area has
reached thus far (and is in line with my sentiment that a sysop needn't
take on such weighty authority as to read every note looking for
transgressors of law and order in order to sleep at night without fear
that the feds might come crashing through the front door).