Fun_People Archive
9 Sep
Banning the Bible and Smiley Faces

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue,  9 Sep 97 11:43:52 -0700
To: Fun_People
Subject: Banning the Bible and Smiley Faces

[A famous person (the R of RSA) speaks on congress's latest threat. Another
 famous person (Peter G. Neumann) adds a postscript about the seriousness of
 it all.  Personally, I don't want to ban the bible, but if this is really a
 way to ban smilies...hmmm ... -psl]

Forwarded-by: (Charlie Shub)
Newsgroups: comp.risks

RISKS-LIST: Risks-Forum Digest  Monday 8 September 1997  Volume 19 : Issue 37

!!! FBI wants to ban the Bible and smiley faces !!! (Ron Rivest)

Date: Sun, 07 Sep 97 21:43:23 EDT
From: rivest@THEORY.LCS.MIT.EDU (Ron Rivest)
Subject: !!! FBI wants to ban the Bible and smiley faces !!!

Congress is apparently considering legislation that would make it illegal
to post portions of the Bible on the Internet.  FBI Director Louis Freeh
wants to make it illegal to use secret codes on the Internet that the FBI
can't break, and some members of Congress have been drafting legislation in
support of Freeh's position.  However, such a law might have startling

A recent best-selling book, "The Bible Code," claims that the Bible is full
of secret messages and codes.  These messages are only partially decoded so
far.  If true, the proposed legislation would make it illegal to post the
Bible on the Internet, unless someone provides the FBI with a way to decode
all of these secret messages contained within the Bible.

Another consequence would require you to register your "smiley faces" with
the FBI.  It is common to use smiley faces to convey meanings.  For example,
the face ;-) is usually interpreted as a "wink".  (If you haven't seen such
smiley faces before, just rotate them ninety degrees.)  Such smiley faces
are an example of a "substitution code", where one symbol (such as ;-) ) is
substituted for another (such as "wink").  Substitution codes are a classic
cryptographic technique.  The proposed law would require you to register
your list of smiley faces with the FBI.  Otherwise, the FBI might have no
way of figuring out what *you* think symbols such as 8-) or :-( might mean.


Ron Rivest

P.S., The proposed language would appear to ban the sale of all computers,
since they are products "that can be used to encrypt communications or
electronic information...".  Ron

  [You think this is early April Fools'?  WRONG.  Think again.  This is just
  a hint of some VERY SERIOUS stuff.  There are many concerned people in
  the computer security community and in the privacy community who believe
  that most of the U.S. populace will be the Fools if the newly proposed
  legislation goes through.  If you want more background, read my Senate
  testimony from 9 Jul 1997
  and my follow-up responses, 2 Sep 1997, to questions from Senators
  Thurmond, Grassley, Leahy, and Feinstein, directed at panelists by Senator
  which I wrote *before* the newly proposed legislation was introduced, and
  which seems even more relevant now.  The newly proposed legislation seems
  even more draconian than the earlier McCain-Kerrey bill in the Senate:
  MANDATORY KEY RECOVERY in sheep's clothing.  PGN]

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