When "bad actors" start using SAFE...?

Diaspora is facing, for the first time AKAIK, the question of what to do about bad actors using their network with the advent of a BBC article about diaspora being used by IS after they were censored on other social media. Its not quite the same issue as SAFE, because they have POD admins and owners who will be responsible in their legal jurisdictions, but most of the questions are relevant to SAFE so its worth following the discussion. We’ll no doubt have many of the same and varied points of view.

Side Notes:

  • the discussion is taking place amongst devs ATM, on the Google groups diaspora-discuss list rather than diaspora itself (I’m on the main joindiaspora pod and have seen nothing on it there yet).
  • I’ve seen none of the IS posts on diaspora myself (though I could perhaps find them if I searched or was following certain hashtags)
  • one of the features of Diaspora (that I find quite irritating) is that anyone can start posting stuff that appears in your feed by default, by simply deciding to share with you, unless you explicitly either block them, or place them in an “aspect” that you then don’t follow. So if an IS account wants me to see their posts, they can just “start sharing” with me.
  • what I have seen recently was what seemed the co-ordinated appearance of pro-Israel commenters on posts highlighting the severity of Israeli Defence Force actions in Gaza, and other abuse of Palestinians in Israel.

I’ve been a member of joindiaspora.com since the start so its a bit surprising the bad actors issue hasn’t arisen before really.

Side note: I’m only still on this mailing list because Google won’t unsubscribe me - spammers!

Wow, how convenient is that. Maybe someone could make a feature request on Github?

Doesn’t sound very pro-Israel to me, but it doesn’t matter (for the purpose of this discussion).

When bad actors start using SAFE, there’s nothing we can do.
BitTorrent is full of various hate propaganda crap and what have they done about it?

My conclusion: I’d do nothing about it and I don’t want that the Project does something about it either.
I only hate the fact that due to the “free for all” (up to X GB) marketing ethos that’s so popular here, we will willingly subsidize these “bad actors” with our disk space and network capacity.

How crazy is that?

EDIT (this is after HB’s “like” so consider that his Like doesn’t apply to this part):
Maybe I should explain the alternative approach (I didn’t initially as I wrote about it several times elsewhere).

  1. Few KB per account (enough for browser bookmarks) ought to be enough for marketing outreach (aka community building).
  2. Communities and individuals could donate Safecoins to their members/friends (say, someone like me may give enough Safecoins to the local homeless shelter so that they can use that for their photo gallery of missing persons and such). This wouldn’t be free because they (those who donate) would have to buy or farm them.
  3. Charities could raise Safecoins from individuals and organizations. Due to the nature of Safecoin / blockchain it would be possible to “audit” them (if data is shared, very bad content from addresses directly or indirectly financed by the charity would be highlighted to the donors) and appraise their work, while “freebies” to anyone with pulse or processor (bots) is going to have a negative effect (in terms of resource distribution and “abuse” (if we agree that this inciting of hatred and calling for violence is not good)) on SAFE.

It’s a slippery slope. Free space donations already serve as taxes and redistribution so we’re just one step from virtualizing (insert the name of your failed state here) - we don’t have the police.


This is the consensus view so far I think (it is already under discussion somewhere but I can’t find a main topic!), along with recognising that there are things we will have to deal with - which is why I’m highlighting this. We anticipate that SAFE may come under criticism and authoritarian action, partly due to “dark web”, paedophile, terrorist usage, but for other reasons too (the threat to special interests from its democratising effects, free speech etc.). We as a community may need to be prepared for that, and to answer those kind of criticisms, and to be clear ourselves what we believe (as individuals as well as a community).

You highlight one of the risks - that users themselves may become uncomfortable and unwilling with the idea that they are helping people they despise.

SAFE will no doubt face risks from a minority of the kinds of activity and groups who use it, so I think it important for us to follow what happens with diaspora, as well as to debate the issues amongst ourselves.

tldr; If this becomes a big issue for Diaspora, we may learn a lot from it!

P.S. Its the commenters that are pro-Israel, not the posts they comment on.

How much assistance does bittorrent.com provide to the US government in combating these problems?
If somebody knows, let us know and let’s see how burdensome and costly that is.
If they don’t do anything, then that’s a precedent for the amount of involvement other similar projects/products should have.

I would like the government to treat this issue similarly to the approach they used in the financial crisis that started in 2008: buy all free space from farmers and sit on it for years.

This issue I’m concerned with is public awareness and perception, and how that might be used to undermine the benefits that SAFE promises - this is the point I’m making here and why I think what happens to diaspora (and others with similar issues) is relevant.

You come across as dismissive, so I’m not sure if you realise that, or the potential seriousness if this project were subject to an orchestrated attack through public perception, for example by painting it as part of the dark web, criminal activities and so on - and therefore something to be shunned.

Any tool you make has positive and negative uses. If you’re involved with SAFE Network then you know how it can be used for good but you also know it can be used to hurt people.

It’s a balance. There is always going to be a pendulum swinging back and forth. People get freedom, abuse it, then people take freedom from others and abuse authority.

If there are too many bad actors on SAFE Network then SAFE Network will get forked so we don’t want that to happen.

The balance ratio of bad to good standard must be very high;
like .0000000001 parts bad actor 9999999999999999999999999999.999999999 parts good actors
And bad actors should not be capable of establishing permanent bad acting

  1. Everyone here knows I’m not associated with the Project. Since I don’t decide about anything, I can’t be dismissive (or appreciative) of these concerns. It’s doesn’t matter what I say. I don’t create these risks of “bad actor abuse” that you describe and neither can I make them go away by stating my outrage and concern.

  2. I actually offered several suggestions to help mitigate those problems while maintaining all the promises of SAFE.
    That advances this discussion and (unlike my value views) actually helps the project. Instead of commenting on my value views, please offer some contribution.

  3. In my 2nd comment above I asked a relevant question, namely that of legal risk, which is (unlike public perception) one aspect that maybe matters.
    If BitTorrent has been operating without any consequences, why would Diaspora or MaidSafe be any different?
    (And without any indication that illegal use of their protocol mattered to BitTorrent.com, perhaps we should ask ourselves why is this Topic not in Off-Topic section.).

  4. The way you describe it, your mobile phone provider is also aiding criminal activities and so is your mailman. Right now you can download and receive in mail all sorts of criminal digital and physical material.
    (a) But you still use their services and (b) Those who shun their services do not seem to bother them.
    Oh, and you are also still using Diaspora! :smiley:

You appear to think that persuading me to see things your way me will change how people will use the network. It won’t. “Bad actors” are simply waiting to use the network from someone’s free WiFi AP. They haven’t registered here using their email address and they aren’t going to argue for their rights to distribute pirated copies of Widows 8 on the MaidSafe network.

(As a side note, I find it bizarre that just as the Project is about to deliver what it’s supposed to, its key features are becoming considered risks to its “public image”. Had it not occurred to anyone that not all images on the SAFE network will be those of beautiful flowery paths?)

Let us hear

  1. Your suggestions on how to fix/mitigate the alleged problem
  2. How exactly would a public attack (a.k.a. the U.K. government-orchestrated smear campaign) impact the need of Brazilian students to use the MaidSafe network or the motivation of Vietnamese farmers to keep earning Safecoins.
  3. Anything else that demonstrates that this topic does not belong to Off-Topic or Advocacy section.

I agree @dallyshalla . It seems like safecoin would be a very quick, efficient way to respond to a disaster. Donations would be immediate. If a wallet was set up for something like the red cross and they used it, their suppliers would also, probably consider accepting safecoin for expediency.

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We cannot stop the bad actors. This is part of the price of freedom. What we can do is focus on what good can be done, implement and demonstrate that. Let the good overwhelm the bad.

I agree. Some actions have been taken against some bit torrent users and torrent directories (like The Pirate Bay), but the protocol is still in broader and broader, and more socially accepted use.

Diaspora is the same, basically. It’s a protocol that people share voluntarily, so it’s virtually impossible to take down as long as people see their personal margin in it.

The SAFE network will be even more so, so will be subject to as much negative kickback as any other, and probably a lot more. It will defy regulation so the irresistible urge to vilify it will sprout from all quarters that get their power from regulation. We’ll definitely see the network used by “bad actors”. Some of them will actually BE bad, rather than Silk Road voluntary exchangers, etc.

There’s not much we can do about that. But we’ll get past it, as the good will way outweigh the bad as time goes on.

I read @happybeing’s concern as considering what we can do to short-circuit the negative PR as much as possible, because we won’t be able to do much on a core network level and retain the positive attributes of the network. We can also put apps on top that people can use to define their own experience (and that of their children, I imagine).

I haven’t followed the thread regarding making things safe for kids, but it seems the same dynamics apply to this idea.
I also tend to agree with keeping the free cap not too large, but think it definitely could be more, like 1-2 Gb, maybe as much as 5-10 Gb. Compared to the amount of storage to be put into the network, that’s almost nothing, but enough to be very useful. Remember that actually getting onto and using the network is a valuable addition by the user. It’s not really freeloading, as the network effect lets them contribute value by just being there and using it.

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@happybeing I completely agree with you that what we need to do is head of negative stigma. I was using BitMessage the other day, and my fiance asked what it was.

“It’s this mail service that uses everyone’s computers to help send messages, instead of just keeping your mail all on one server. It’s potentially safer than keeping your stuff on a server that might get hacked or whatever.”
“So you’re helping pass messages around?”
“So there’s other people’s mail on your computer?”
“Yeah, sort of. Momentarily, but I can’t read it.”
“So what if someone is sending child porn or terrorist messages? There could be child porn on your computer? Then you’re helping move child porn!”

And that, right there, is the thought process of the majority of people. “Am I helping bad people to hurt innocent people?”

But as we all know, the post office could be moving drugs and CP. I could be using a dollar that was used for an assassination. But we disconnect from it because we’re not present for the event. I’m not helping to deliver US post mail, so I don’t care. But if I’m involved in the process, things change. That’s the difference, I think.

I like the suggestion of setting up donation services and such, do admirable work to show the power of the network. Don’t tell people why they’re stupid for being worried about CP, or tell them “It’s the price of freedom!” It’s aggressive, argumentative, and counter-productive.

I mentioned this somewhere else, but what’s stopping me from writing an application on my computer that just creates hundreds/thousands of accounts, and then just manages those accounts? A file system manager that treats the thousands of accounts like one master account to the end user. Then I distribute that app for free. Think of a Bitcoin wallet managing multiple addresses, but instead its Maidsafe tokens/accounts.

If you create something like that, and if it’s extremely easy to use, people would choose that over paying for space. I know I would.

Is there a topic for this? Seems like a hugely important discussion.


My concern is indeed about the network being attacked in this way, and I think that this is important because unlike BitTorrent or even Diaspora, the network is intended for mass adoption - a replacement for the internet no less. Maybe we won’t achieve that, and certainly there will be lots of vested interests who will not want it, and some of them have the power to wage a very powerful and widespread campaign against it in mainstream media etc.

If we want widespread adoption, we need consider this and it may well help to be prepared - through discussion, and as my post suggests: to see what happens with Diaspora in case we can learn anything from it, seeing as it just made the BBC for the first time in its history for this very reason. Who knows, maybe it will help increase adoption! :slight_smile:

Diaspora is a bit different in that it would probably be easier in a lot of cases (certainly the biggest PoD joindiaspora) to go after the PoD admins or hosting itself, as is increasingly being done by both law enforcement and the copyright industry.

Also, Diaspora is very small beer compared to what we anticipate with SAFE. Even BitTorrent is tiny compared to what we’re trying to create.

I’m saying let’s watch and see if we can learn anything useful.

I really don’t understand why this is attracting so much bashing from @janitor, and I’m not minded to write a long response to all those points when I’m not asking @janitor to do anything. I had the impression from the initial response that @janitor, you hadn’t understood my point at all, so was clarifying it. But if you don’t think public perception of Project SAFE is an issue, that’s fine, go and work on the things you do think are important. There’s no need for you to get dismissive of others’ concerns, which you did again with that “Had it not occurred to anyone…” sarcasm. Nor to suggest that I’m saying things that I’m not, as in “you appear to think…” in order to try and make me appear stupid. I find this mocking and offensive.

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How do we beat this? Fight fire with fire? Draw attention to the fire? I am not in any way discounting the threat. All im suggesting is that we focus our collective brainpower on positive, good expression of this technology. Let the tactic be diverting attention away from the “if it bleeds it leads” to the truth. I thought we should focus on creating that truth.

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I think compared to the very minimal amount that added storage should cost, that this would be a generally unattractive and complex approach. We’ll see what the resource pricing works out as, but I’m expecting the value of safecoin go up while the cost of storage goes down, making it not so attractive to cheat.

The attack vector is the only thing I have attention on along the lines of what you’re saying. I think that that may be a case for smaller initial free cap. That’s a different animal. But even so, I think 250 Mb would be small enough yet give someone enough to be getting on with while starting to use the network.

@fergish / @russell Free storage is an important but different issue. A new topic?


just did it.

I think we would be able to mitigate this to an extent by having a crisis PR plan in place, which we don’t currently have but will need to get in plan for beta. We have discussed and are relatively aware of how we would respond to certain types of criticism, we need to get them down on paper though.

I think that if the project were to come under attack from a large incumbent or government, then negative PR is how they would do it.


The SAFE network would facilitate the ability to support: spirituality, monetarily and otherwise what we call the “Christian underground” for those in areas where practicing ones religion is dangerous. The SAFE network facilitates freedom of religion! Sell that!


I’d say, the app developers will have a huge role in the perception of the network…regular people would normally have no interest in whats under the hood…it’s the apps man!

But…no malware, viruses, spyware, no need for backups…that’s huge and we should be promoting the heck out of these features…people understand the pain these nasties create. This is the positive news we need to propagate in order to get regular folk on the network (social media campaign)

Privacy is in the headlines…but folk are so hypnotized into the belief that ‘if I’m doing nothing wrong, I have nothing to fear’ they wont immediately comprehend what they have been given…after all it’s never happened before.

But when they do awaken…

Private Communications + Data Security = Freedom for All

Whatever or whomever we have faith in…well we can express that now without fear. Whatever or whomever we despise, we can now express that also.

It wont happen overnight, but once humans realize they are free to rat out the despised bad actors, change could happen really quickly…and maybe with a dose of chaos as control systems unravel?

There are figures out there, showing a dramatic decrease in Police brutality, once their wired for video. It’s the state actors (public servants) that need to be brought to heel…once that happens, maybe we’ll have the teeth to reign in the Private bad actors.

It’s going to be a wild ride with lots of opportunity to profit from doing good I reckon…strange concept :slight_smile: