The USENET Site of Virtue FAQ
                              Dave Hayes


Subject: 0. Table of Contents

	1. Introduction
		1.1) What this document is
		1.2) Prerequisites
		1.3) Internet Resources
	2. Basic Definitions
		2.1) What is a 'Freedom Knight'? 
			2.1.1) How does one become a Freedom Knight?
			2.1.2) Who leads the Freedom Knights?
		2.2) What is a USENET 'site of virtue'? 
		2.3) What is a USENET 'newsreader of virtue'?
		2.4) What does "content-based" mean?
	3. The Freedom Knight Code of Honor
	4. Technical Issues for a Site Of Virtue
	5. Policy Issues for a Site Of Virtue
	6. Technical Issues for a Newsreader Of Virtue
	7. Other Frequently Asked Questions


Subject: 1. Introduction

1.1) What this document is

This is the USENET Site of Virtue FAQ. It represents an ongoing
attempt to implement true freedom of speech among the emerging
cyber-communities, including standards of conduct and technical
implementation issues relavent to operating a site which supports 
True Free Speech.

A companion document is "A Primer on Net Abuse, Free Speech, and
Usenet". It is suggested that you read that first, as it describes
the philosophies behind a Site of Virtue. This document simply 
describes how to run a Site of Virtue and how to be a Freedom Knight.

1.2) Prerequisites

If you don't know what Usenet is, you're reading the wrong document!

Go look in the newsgroup news.answers for the documents "What is
Usenet" and "How to become a USENET site".  In order to understand
the discussions here you should be familiar with USENET in general,
and have a reasonable amount of experience posting and/or reading

If these documents are not in news.answers or news.announce.newusers 
on your site, they can be had by anonymous ftp from in 
the directory /pub/usenet-by-hierarchy/news/announce/newusers.

You should be familiar with news administration, how news works
in general, and have kept up in some discussions on news.admin.*.

Finally, you should believe that no expression, however annoying or
counterproductive, should be prevented from being distributed. If you
do not believe in this way, this document will only make you angry. 
(If that's what you want, then read it.)

1.3) Internet Resources

There is a mailing list which freedom knights, and others subscribe
to. The list address is "", and
subscriptions should go to "".

For those who do not know majordomo, put the word "help" in the
BODY (not the HEADER) of a mail message and fire it off to 

If that didn't clarify what you are supposed to do, and you want
to subscribe, put the words "subscribe freedom-knights" in the body
of a mail message to "". 

There is also a WWW site, this is
and this is the Freedom Knights site on the net. This site contains
patches for news software and other goodies. 


Subject: 2. Basic Definitions 

2.1) What is a 'Freedom Knight'?

A Freedom Knight is a person who:

  -Conducts themselves in a manner consistent with the
   Freedom Knight Code of Honor
  -Works in an honorable fashion to ensure the persistance,
   defense, and existance of Sites of Virtue

These standards are completely voluntary standards, in other words
there will be people who claim to but do not adhere to all of these
standards. Such non-adherence is not a bad or good thing, nor is there
any punishment or reward associated with adherence or non-adherence.
Rather, these standards are put here merely to point the way to how a
Freedom Knight "should" act, to be worthy of the name.

It is said that you will know a person by their actions. More
directly, if someone finds someone who claims to be a Freedom Knight,
and they do not observe these standards, chances are that they aren't
*really* a Freedom Knight.

Keep in mind, this is no reason to judge a Freedom Knight's actions.
A Freedom Knight is responsible to no one other than themselves. 
Russ Allbery  sums up the credo of the Freedom
Knight with regards to this issue. He was asked "Why won't you be
decent?". Here is his response:

>Because I have no desire to become so, for becoming "decent" requires
>that I accept a standard of society, that I order my beliefs and
>reactions in order to fit someone's standard of acceptable and
>unacceptable.  That I cannot do, for my individuality is the gift of
>my Creator and is not something that I will give up lightly, easily,
>or for the sake of social acceptance.  *I* *am* *myself*, and I will
>not change for you, ... or for the people who claim they are
>disappointed in me because I do not meet their internal models of what
>I should be like.

2.1.1) How does one become a Freedom Knight?

Contrary to what many would like to hear, there is no established body
of judges who proclaim a USENET citizen a Freedom Knight. This is a
completely voluntary and self-policing position, requiring no one but
oneself to proclaim knighthood.

Becoming a Freedom Knight is as simple as adopting the Freedom Knight
Code of Honor. Optionally, you may send a simple message to the
Freedom Knights mailing list (see section 1.3) proclaiming yourself as
a Freedom Knight. Subscribing to the list is recommended, but not

Remember, it is your actions which show you to be a Freedom Knight,
not your proclamations. 

2.1.2) Who leads the Freedom Knights? 

There has been much confusion over this simple issue, which tells me
many people only read what they want to see. There are -no- leaders to
the Freedom Knights, and there is no organization called the Freedom
Knights. There is a mailing list, that's the extent of it. 

Any Freedom Knight leads only by their own example, understanding that
a true chief of the people does not tell another what to do, and that
no chief wants to be a chief for the sake of telling others what to
do. Leaders are wayshowers, nothing more and nothing less.

2.2) What is a USENET 'Site of Virtue'?

This is a site run by a Freedom Knight which meets specific technical
requirements, as specified below.

2.3) What is a USENET 'Newsreader of Virtue'?

This is newsreader (usually found on sites run by a Freedom Knight) which 
meets specific technical requirements, as specified below.

2.4) What does "content-based" mean?

"Content" is defined to be the Body of an electronic message, and the
following RFC 1036 headers:


You are considered to be making content-based decisions if you have to
read and parse Content to make your determination.

Examples of content-based:
	-Inappropriate posting (you have to read the message)
	-Identical messages over several newsgroups (only if you read the messages)

Examples of NOT content-based:
	-Running the Body through a program to determine size 
	-Making a cryptographic checksum from the Body


Subject: 3. The Freedom Knight Code of Honor

This is the code of Honor by which all true Freedom Knights adhere to.

(1) A Freedom Knight will never enforce the application of -any- content-based 
    standards on any other net.citizen, unless that conduct directly and immediately
    renders their server's transport software incapable of performing its normal
    store and forward operation.

    In particular, with regard to USENET this means:

      a) A Freedom Knight -never- issues cancel messages, except for
      his or her own postings.

      b) A Freedom Knight never removes a newsgroup from their news 
      server unless that newsgroup directly results in breaking one or
      more software systems used to distribute or read news. An
      example of this is long newsgroup names that break newsreaders.

      c) A Freedom Knight will refrain from feeding another site
      newsgroups that it does not want.

      d) A Freedom Knight will never disable any user they have authorized
      to read or post news from their site for content-based reasons. 

      e) The only time a Freedom Knight may punish or suspend a user's
      access is if that user directly attempted to shut down the 
      news server's normal "store and forward" operation. Mailbombs
      from the net as a result of postings do not count as direct 

      f) A Freedom Knight will never take action against a user due to
      complaints regarding the content of the body of any of their user's 
      posts. This, however, does not include the simple action of
      revealing the user's identity if the Knight is able or willing to.

(2) A Freedom Knight will always operate in such a way as to provide
    maximal unmoderated content on their news server. Any news site
    that a Freedom Knight operates is run as a Site Of Virtue, if 
    and only if the ownership of the site is willing. 
    In particular, with regard to USENET this means:

      a) A Freedom Knight carries all unmoderated groups that they can get a 
      feed for, regardless of content or origin.

      b) A Freedom Knight actively solicites multiple feeds, technical
      considerations permitting.

      c) A Freedom Knight will feed any other site, technical considerations

      d) A Freedom Knight honors all newgroups and ignores all rmgroups,
      regardless of origin. The exception to this is if a newgroup message
      contains special characters that will damage the active file or
      cause newsreaders to crash.

      e) A Freedom Knight does not allow a Site of Virtue to
      automatically delete -any- postings via any mechanism other than
      the normal and expected expiration function of the news server.
      This includes Cancel messages, Supersedes:, NoCeM, or any other attempt to
      delete postings from the news server. The only way a Freedom Knight
      may delete postings is if a cryptographically authenticated message arrives
      from the originator of the posting(s), and this message can be verified.

3) A Freedom Knight, realizing the need for personal responsibility,

    a)  take each and every step necessary to ensure the security
        and reliability of their own site,

    b)  learn to filter and practice filtering news that the Knight
        does not want to see
    c)  practice mail filtering, including having mail "shields"

    d)  control their own posting habits by their own internal code
        of conduct, without calling undue attention to such control.

Subject: 4. Technical Issues for a Site Of Virtue

In order to be a Site of Virtue, you need to be able to handle large
amounts of traffic, and be relatively immune to minor abuses of net

The technical criteria for a Site of Virtue are:

1) Maintain free newsspool space that is no less than 3 times 
   the nominal 24 hour news traffic load. 

2) Internet connection must be of T1 speed (1.5 MB/sec) or greater.
   (This may change as time goes on. Right now a full feed will just
   about saturate a T1)

3) The operating system must be a virtual-memory, multitasking system
   capable of handling large (>100) amounts of network connections at
   the same time.

4) The server must have a resident copy of the source code to the news 
   server software you are using, and be able to build and modify the

Other notes:

If you are looking to set up a reasonably fast server, emphasis on a 
wide I/O channel is a must. 

Consult the Freedom Knight home pages for up-to-date technical advice.
If you see none there, bug the webmaster until he puts them there. 

In order to be accessible to the rest of the Usenet community, 
you should make sure that as news administrator you are accessible 
to e-mail, as and 
For that reason, Your "mail shields" should be installed on both 
these addresses.

As site administrator you should probably read the groups in
news.admin.*. Reading these groups will keep you informed about 
the myriad of standards people categorize as "net-abuses", and help 
you understand what is wrong with the opinions about net-abuse for 


Subject: 5. Policy Issues for a Site Of Virtue

The policy issues for a Site Of Virtue are:

1) Honor all newgroups that do not break newsreading software, regardless
of origin.

2) No unauthenticated cancel messages are honored. Only cancel
messages authenticated to be from the author of a message are honored.

3) All newsgroups, save those which would be inappropriate due to regional
or national boundaries, are carried.

Sites Of Virtue should feed each other, as appropriate. 


Subject: 6. Technical Issues for a Newsreader Of Virtue

In order to be a Newsreader of Virtue, a newsreader needs to be able to
find interesting threads in a large amount of traffic/noise.

The technical criteria for a newsreader of virtue are:

1) The newsreader must allow the user to specify patterns matching
subjects or authors which the reader will then refrain from displaying
to the user. 

2) The newsreader must present articles by subject/author on a menu
to be selected by the user's for reading.

3) Articles presented on a menu must either be consolodated by Subject
line, or threaded by References line. 

On the reader side, we currently recommend NN or (S)TRN. Gnus 5 has
also been recommended by some, this author hasn't looked at it yet.

(This information is sorely out of date, and the author is not able
to keep up with newsreader developments at this time.)


Subject: 7. Other Frequently Asked Questions

- I need a written policy for a site of virtue. What policy should I use?

For external browsers of your policy, add this:

"If you find a posting from this site offensive, inappropriate,
or disruptive please ignore it. If you don't know how to ignore 
a posting, complain to us and we will demonstrate."

For internal users of your site, add this:

"USENET is interacted with at the reader's own risk. The postings
found here are usually locatable at sites all over the world. We
take no responsibility for the validity or appropriateness of articles
posted or read on this newsserver. Postings are the sole responsibility
of the poster."

- How long should the articles' expiration times be?

On most sites, disk space will limit the expiration times, and you
will have to spend some time fine-tuning them on a per hierarchy or
group basis.  It's often best if the "large file" groups -- those
carrying binaries for example -- expire more quickly than others.

Lastly, its best if a low-volume group has its expiration time set
long enough that the Frequently Asked Questions list (FAQ) and any
other periodic postings in the group are always there.  Well-managed
FAQs are supposed to come with their own expiration times, and you 
should configure your site to honor these.

- What are "mail shields"?

There are two types of mail shields:

1) Absorptive - These take bogus mail and delete it. 
2) Reflective - These take bogus mail and send it back somewhere
along with an optional message. 

There are also two types of triggers on mail shields:

1) Threshold - These keep track of author and subject and when
more than N messages are recieved with the same author or subject,
the shields go up. Usually N is up at 1000 or so. 

2) Disk Space - These keep track of available disk space, and
when that gets too low it triggers the shield. These triggers
are most used with "reflective" shields, as there are other
reasons than flamage to lose one's mail capability.

In general, Reflective Disk Space shields are the most aggressive
choice as they call attention to bogons rather rapidly. The author
here uses absorptive, having no more time for fun and games. 

It is often good to have something similar to "procmail", by which
you can filter out annoyances from your mailbox. Also. the MH mail
system coupled with SED, AWK, or PERL provides excellent filtering
capabilities. Again, Gnus 5 has been recommended.

You may also download MORGAINE, the author's written PERL filtering
scheme. Be
warned that this takes some knowledge of PERL to use properly. 


Subject: Revision History

$Log: virtue.html,v $
Revision 1.1  1997/12/06 08:14:01  dave
" fksite version 1.0"

Revision 1.7  1997/12/06 08:07:00  dave
Rev 2 of the entire thing. This cleans up a few issues
(notably who is and is not a freedom knight) and modernizes
some of the technical information. This is still a work
in progress folks.

Revision 1.6  1996/04/16 08:11:57  dave
Minor spelling problems

Revision 1.5  1996/03/10 09:26:24  dave
Changed Russ Allbery's email address by request.

Revision 1.4  1996/03/04 00:04:25  dave
Added 2.1.1 about how to become a Knight

Revision 1.3  1996/02/28 20:52:33  dave
Added Russ Allbery's very nice expression of self responsibility.

Revision 1.2  1996/02/19 08:05:52  dave
Tightened up some of the definitions and codes, added Gnus 5
as a possible newsreader, and clarified a paragraph pertaining
to moral superiority. 

Revision  1996/02/19 07:52:13  dave
Initial Import