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Updated by: 9245
Network Working Group                                            M. Rose
Request for Comments: 3683                  Dover Beach Consulting, Inc.
BCP: 83                                                       March 2004
Category: Best Current Practice

      A Practice for Revoking Posting Rights to IETF Mailing Lists

Status of this Memo

   This document specifies an Internet Best Current Practices for the
   Internet Community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
   improvements.  Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004). All Rights Reserved.


   All self-governing bodies have ways of managing the scope of
   participant interaction.  The IETF uses a consensus-driven process
   for developing computer-communications standards in an open fashion.
   An important part of this consensus-driven process is the pervasive
   use of mailing lists for discussion.  Notably, in a small number of
   cases, a participant has engaged in a "denial-of-service" attack to
   disrupt the consensus-driven process.  Regrettably, as these bad
   faith attacks become more common, the IETF needs to establish a
   practice that reduces or eliminates these attacks.  This memo
   recommends such a practice for use by the IETF.

Rose                     Best Current Practice                  [Page 1]

RFC 3683        Revocation Practice: IETF Mailing Lists       March 2004

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   2.  A Revocation Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   3.  Acknowledgements. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   4.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   5.  Normative References. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   Appendix -  Q & A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
   Author's Address. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
   Full Copyright Statement. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13

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RFC 3683        Revocation Practice: IETF Mailing Lists       March 2004

1.  Introduction

   All self-governing bodies have ways of managing the scope of
   participant interaction.  For example, deliberative assemblies often
   employ "rules of order" for determining who gets to speak, when, and
   for how long.  Similarly, there is widespread agreement in so-called
   "liberal" societies that the right to free speech is not absolute,
   e.g., political speech is given more leeway than commercial speech,
   and some forms of speech (e.g., egregious libel or incitement to
   violence) are considered unacceptable.

   The IETF uses a consensus-driven process for developing computer-
   communications standards in an open fashion.  An important part of
   this consensus-driven process is the pervasive use of mailing lists
   for discussion.  Unlike many other organizations, anyone may post
   messages on those IETF mailing lists, and in doing so, participate in
   the IETF process.  Historically, this approach has worked very well
   in the IETF, as it fosters participation from a wide range of
   stakeholders.  (For the purposes of this memo, the term "IETF mailing
   list" refers to any mailing list functioning under IETF auspices,
   such as the IETF general discussion list, or a working group or
   design team mailing list.)

   Notably, in a small number of cases, a participant has engaged in
   what amounts to a "denial-of-service" attack to disrupt the
   consensus-driven process.  Typically, these attacks are made by
   repeatedly posting messages that are off-topic, inflammatory, or
   otherwise counter-productive.  In contrast, good faith disagreement
   is a healthy part of the consensus-driven process.

   For example, if a working group is unable to reach consensus, this is
   an acceptable, albeit unfortunate, outcome; however, if that working
   group fails to achieve consensus because it is being continuously
   disrupted, then the disruption constitutes an abuse of the
   consensus-driven process.  Interactions of this type are
   fundamentally different from "the lone voice of dissent" in which a
   participant expresses a view that is discussed but does not achieve
   consensus.  In other words, individual bad faith should not trump
   community goodwill.

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RFC 3683        Revocation Practice: IETF Mailing Lists       March 2004

   Guidelines have been developed for dealing with abusive behavior
   (c.f., Section 3.2 of [1] and [2]).  Although not exhaustive,
   examples of abusive or otherwise inappropriate postings to IETF
   mailing lists include:

   o  unsolicited bulk e-mail;

   o  discussion of subjects unrelated to IETF policy, meetings,
      activities, or technical concerns;

   o  unprofessional commentary, regardless of the general subject; and,

   o  announcements of conferences, events, or activities that are not
      sponsored or endorsed by the Internet Society or IETF.

   In practice, the application of those guidelines has included the
   temporary suspension of posting rights to a specific mailing list.
   If necessary, the length of the suspension has been increased with
   each successive suspension.  In many cases, applying those guidelines
   will produce the desired modification in behaviour.  However, when
   those guidelines fail to provide the desired modification in
   behaviour, more drastic measures should be available to reduce or
   eliminate these attacks' impact on the IETF process.

   This document describes one such drastic measure.

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RFC 3683        Revocation Practice: IETF Mailing Lists       March 2004

2. A Revocation Practice

   Please refer to [3] for the meaning conveyed by the uppercase words
   in this section.

   As a part of its activities, the Internet Engineering Steering Group
   (IESG) makes decisions about "actions".  Typically, an action refers
   to the publication of a document on the standards-track, the
   chartering of a working group, and so on.  This memo recommends that
   the IESG also undertake a new type of action, termed a PR-action
   ("posting rights" action).

   A PR-action identifies one or more individuals, citing messages
   posted by those individuals to an IETF mailing list, that appear to
   be abusive of the consensus-driven process.  If approved by the IESG,

   o  those identified on the PR-action have their posting rights to
      that IETF mailing list removed; and,

   o  maintainers of any IETF mailing list may, at their discretion,
      also remove posting rights to that IETF mailing list.

   Once taken, this action remains in force until explicitly nullified
   and SHOULD remain in force for at least one year.

   One year after the PR-action is approved, a new PR-action MAY be
   introduced which restores the posting rights for that individual.
   The IESG SHOULD consider the frequency of nullifying requests when
   evaluating a new PR-action.  If the posting rights are restored the
   individual is responsible for contacting the owners of the mailing
   lists to have them restored.

   Regardless of whether the PR-action revokes or restores posting
   rights, the IESG follows the same algorithm as with its other

   1.  it is introduced by an IESG Area Director (AD), who, prior to
       doing so, may choose to inform the interested parties;

   2.  it is published as an IESG last call on the IETF general
       discussion list;

   3.  it is discussed by the community;

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RFC 3683        Revocation Practice: IETF Mailing Lists       March 2004

   4.  it is discussed by the IESG; and, finally,

   5.  using the usual consensus-based process, it is decided upon by
       the IESG.

   Of course, as with all IESG actions, the appeals process outlined in
   [4] may be invoked to contest a PR-action approved by the IESG.

   Working groups SHOULD ensure that their associated mailing list is
   manageable.  For example, some may try to circumvent the revocation
   of their posting rights by changing email addresses; accordingly it
   should be possible to restrict the new email address.

   Finally, note that the scope of a PR-action deals solely with posting
   rights.  Consistent with the final paragraph of Section 3.2 of [1],
   no action may be taken to prevent individuals from receiving messages
   sent to a mailing list.

Rose                     Best Current Practice                  [Page 6]

RFC 3683        Revocation Practice: IETF Mailing Lists       March 2004

3. Acknowledgements

   The author gratefully acknowledges the contributions of: Brian
   Carpenter, Jim Galvin, Jeff Haas, Ted Hardie, Russ Housley, Thomas
   Narten, Jon Peterson, Margaret Wasserman, and Bert Wijnen.

Rose                     Best Current Practice                  [Page 7]

RFC 3683        Revocation Practice: IETF Mailing Lists       March 2004

4. Security Considerations

   This memo deals with matters of process, not protocol.

   A reasonable person might note that this memo describes a mechanism
   to throttle active denial-of-service attacks against the consensus-
   driven process used by the IETF.

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RFC 3683        Revocation Practice: IETF Mailing Lists       March 2004

5.  Normative References

   [1]  Bradner, S., "IETF Working Group Guidelines and Procedures", BCP
        25, RFC 2418, September 1998.

   [2]  Harris, S., "IETF Discussion List Charter", BCP 45, RFC 3005,
        November 2000.

   [3]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement
        Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.

   [4]  Bradner, S., "The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 3", BCP
        9, RFC 2026, October 1996.

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Appendix A. Q & A

   Q: Isn't a year too long?

   A: No.

      An initial PR-action is not undertaken lightly.  It is approved
      only after a period of substantive consideration and community
      review.  If a PR-action is approved, then this indicates that a
      serious situation has arisen.

   Q: Why not require one PR-action per IETF mailing list?

   A: To do so would enable a prolonged series of denial-of-service

      If someone is poorly-behaved on one IETF mailing list, but well-
      behaved on another, then the maintainer for the second IETF
      mailing list needn't revoke posting rights.  However, the more
      likely scenario is that someone who behaves poorly on one IETF
      mailing list is unwilling to be well-behaved on any IETF mailing

   Q: Should the initiation of a PR-action come from outside the IESG?

   A: Informally, sure; formally, no.

      Under the IETF's consensus-driven process, IESG actions are always
      formally initiated by an IESG Area Director (AD).  In practice,
      the motivation for an IESG member to initiate an action almost
      always comes from outside the IESG.  For example, when a working
      group (WG) reaches consensus on a document, the WG chair informs
      the relevant AD that the document is ready for the AD to consider
      it for a document action.  In the case of this document -- an IETF
      individual submission -- the author will iteratively circulate the
      document for wide discussion and make revisions.  At some point,
      the author will contact an AD and ask for a document action to
      publish this document as a Best Current Practice (BCP).

   Q: Is this censorship?

   A: Only if you believe in anarchy.

      What is important is that the rules surrounding PR-actions exhibit
      the same properties used by the rest of the consensus-based

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RFC 3683        Revocation Practice: IETF Mailing Lists       March 2004

   Q: C'mon! You really are a closet fascist.

   A: No, I'm a libertarian.

      Frankly, I would prefer that people behave reasonably and act in
      good faith.  Since my first involvement with the IETF (nee GADS,
      circa 1983), everyone understood that reasonable behavior was a
      good thing.  After 20 years, I regret to inform you that this step
      is inevitable.

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RFC 3683        Revocation Practice: IETF Mailing Lists       March 2004

Author's Address

   Marshall T. Rose
   Dover Beach Consulting, Inc.
   POB 255268
   Sacramento, CA  95865-5268

   Phone: +1 916 483 8878
   EMail: mrose@dbc.mtview.ca.us

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RFC 3683        Revocation Practice: IETF Mailing Lists       March 2004

Full Copyright Statement

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).  This document is subject
   to the rights, licenses and restrictions contained in BCP 78 and
   except as set forth therein, the authors retain all their rights.

   This document and the information contained herein are provided on an

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