Francis Hwang on Tue, 25 Jun 2002 02:57:13 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Stasi Informer List on the Internet

I wonder how much effect this will have. I suppose it's a good thing 
that the names of ex-Stasi associates is made public, but how 
provable are such allegations? Without anybody to stand behind such 
claims, they seem like little more than rumor.

They also seem highly susceptible to corruption -- "semantic 
attacks", as Bruce Schneier might say. How hard would it be to 
release your own version of the Stasi List, subtly altered to:

- remove names of you and/or your associates
- add names of your political enemies
- add names of your drinking buddies, as a joke

... if the internet gets flooded with 100 slightly different versions 
of the list, who's going to take any of those versions seriously?

As with many interesting problems, the dynamics are social, not 
technical. In order to prevent intentional file corruption, some p2p 
distribution schemes -- Freenet (, for 
one -- use checksums to verify that a file is the file that it's 
originator says it is. So at first glance that might offer a solution.

But who's the originator? If somebody releases a file on Freenet and 
you verify your copy against the checksum, all you know is that file 
is the file that the originator wants you to see. But who put out the 
file in the first place? A Stasi informant with a guilty conscience? 
A raving paranoid who lives in his mother's basement in East Berlin? 
A Barcelona-based net-artist who's executing her next work?

Truth requires context. Context requires people.


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