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China Bans Running Your Own Email Server 304

Posted by Zonk
from the too-many-of-those-around-anyway dept.
Erwin_D writes "Under the guise of banning spam, China has ruled that running your own e-mail server has been banned, unless you have a license. To qualify for such a license, an 'e-mail service provider' must abide by some chilling rules: all e-mail must be stored for two months, and e-mail with discussing vaguely defined subject as network security or information security may not be transmitted. While the rules contains all the good measures we would all like to see to combat spam, such as prohibiting open relays and outlawing zombie network, the law is also geared toward controlling free speech. From the article: 'I believe that the intent to have an antispam regulation was a good one ... Unfortunately, it seems like during the policy formulation process, it got hijacked and went to one extreme.'"
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China Bans Running Your Own Email Server

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  • by Blrfl (46596) on Friday April 14, 2006 @11:43AM (#15130285) Homepage
    That's how it is in China. There are many, many people there who have no idea that Tienamen Square ever happened...
    • by Vellmont (569020) on Friday April 14, 2006 @11:59AM (#15130459) Homepage
      There was a really excellent episode of frontline [pbs.org] that aired this week that covered that very topic. Anyone over the age of 20 or so surely remembers the guy who stopped the tank in Tienamen Square. Of course if you google for "Tienamen Square" in China you get no images of Tank Man. In the rest of the world you get multiple images.
      • Google.cn image search for tiananmen and go to page 5 and you'll see images of tank man.
      • Along those lines, does anybody know if there are public proxy servers in China that allow people in the rest of the world to see what the internet is like behind the great firewall?
    • Not only that, only 111 million Chinese use the Internet [cia.gov] out of a population of 1.3 billion. Most people in China are really not going to notice this or care.
    • How is this comment informative? Besides being wrong it has no substance.

      "That's how it is"

      What kind of contribution is that? It doesn't even make sense, requiring a license for an email server is how it is?

      It is a stupid law that does nothing to help free speech, but its most definately not "the way it is"

      "The way it is" is that those internet users mostly play video games and read up on entertainment, just like their valiant counterparts in the West. The way it is is a few dissidents trying to get informa
    • That's also how it is in the U.S. Many, many Americans have no idea Echelon is real, and not a plot item in the TV show Alias, or that Osama Bin Laden was a U.S. operative trained to perform terrorist activities against the Soviet Union, or the magnitude of privacy losses due to acts passed after 9/11, etc.
    • And a London mayor that knowingly trivializes it [thisislocallondon.co.uk].

      No, I didn't vote for him.
  • by fortinbras47 (457756) on Friday April 14, 2006 @11:45AM (#15130305)
    Why should this surprise anyone?
    • Why news should be surprising?

      If you consider "news" as a revenue source, then "yes", the "surprisier" the better.

      If you consider news to be news, then they do not have to.
    • by cyber-dragon.net (899244) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:33PM (#15130816)
      Correction... China is still a dictatorship... according to communist theory (which china does not practice) free speech and criticism of the government is NESSISARY, not something to be stifled.

      Yell at them for their policy all you want, but get out of the cold war era and blame them correctly. I will use one of my favorite quotes from an American president:

      "How do you tell a communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin."
      • Laugh or cry? (Score:3, Informative)

        by jandersen (462034)
        I don't know if I should laugh or cry when I hear this kind of oversimplified nonsense - it displays the same level of understanding as the average Hollywood movie's understanding of history, science and reality in general (ie. whatever sells the movie or sounds good in a slogan must be true).

        Let's take Marx - he lived in an era where belonging to the working class meant that you were desperately poor, and where the middle and upper classes believed that different classes were almost different species; rich
    • Actually, since China nowadays allows foreign privately owned corporations to operate in the country, it is a modern globalized capitalist dictatorship. Not that there's much difference to the poor bastards having to live under their evil overlords.

    • I have to agree with OP, how is this a troll?
      China =is= a communist dictatorship. And I could care less about the communism, keyword is /dictatorship/.
      This isn't a troll, it just happens to be true.
  • by Osrin (599427) * on Friday April 14, 2006 @11:46AM (#15130323) Homepage
    ... is the need for a license to run a mail server in a personal environment. Don't most ISPs in the western world have similar government imposed retention and intrusion legislation that they have to abide by? I see old emails delivered to courts from ISPs on a regular basis in the press US and European press.

    Maybe somebody could clarify US and UK law for me.
    • by gentimjs (930934) on Friday April 14, 2006 @11:50AM (#15130370) Journal
      The main problem isnt the retention crap .. its the "Ye shalt not transmit email which speaks poorly of $SUBJECT" style restrictions that are going to piss people off ....
    • yeah but this is "in China".

      if China didn't have driving licenses or passports and introduced them tomorrow, the headline on /. (2 weeks later) would be "China destroys right to move about".
    • Generally speaking...

      I've only seen ISP's keep short term backups. ie, mail server storage method completely dies and then backups are restored. I'm not wholly sure how long the rest of the industry keeps these, but I never kept them past a few weeks.

      Mail logs are generally kept for much longer...

      Now, I think you are refering to the regulations that were pending/passed/speculated regarding business mail for large companies. This is taken from the company rather then the ISP. I believe there were some regula
    • > ... is the need for a license to run a mail server in a personal environment. Don't most ISPs in the western world have similar government imposed retention and intrusion legislation that they have to abide by? I see old emails delivered to courts from ISPs on a regular basis in the press US and European press.
      >
      > Maybe somebody could clarify US and UK law for me.

      UK: Alpha test site. It's a "Voluntary Code of Practice on Data Retention" [wikipedia.org], for values of "voluntary" approaching the sort of stat


    • Don't most ISPs in the western world have similar government imposed retention and intrusion legislation that they have to abide by?

      I don't know about other governemnts, but there's certainly no data retention laws for ISPs in the United States. I'm not certain if email has been ruled to be covered by privacy laws, but I'd certainly hope so.

      There's some requirements about email for publically traded companies through a new law called Sarbanes-Oxley. Even that I'm not sure if there's specific requirements
    • Still no difference. (Score:3, Informative)

      by twitter (104583)
      [the only difference] is the need for a license to run a mail server in a personal environment

      For the vast majority of US households lucky enough to have better than dial up, the ISP forbids running "servers" of any kind. So there's no difference on that front except the penalties. In China, you will be put under then jail and your organs sold to the highest bidder for running anything like a press. In the US, right now, you will simply lose your connection to the network.

  • And... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Cherita Chen (936355) on Friday April 14, 2006 @11:47AM (#15130334) Homepage
    This shouldn't come as a suprise to anyone. Remember this Wikipedia Blocked [wikipedia.org]
  • ... and e-mail with discussing vaguely defined subject as network security or information security may not be transmitted
    What does that mean? Was this story processed from Chinese using babelfish? Does anyone at /. edit or are they too busy writing stories justifying why they shouldn't bother editing?
    • by Erwin_D (960540)

      That got really butcherded in the editing room, I guess... I wrote:

      ... and e-mails discussing vaguely defined subjects as "network security" or "information security" may not be transmitted.

  • i am sure we can eventually come up with a smarted way to eliminate/control spam. outright banning of any personal email servers is just ridiculous.

    before we know it, they would start banning sending snail mail, sending faxes, using phones - all in the name of quality control and eliminating spam.
  • by mrowton (828923) on Friday April 14, 2006 @11:52AM (#15130383) Homepage
    From the article [vnunet.com]
    "China's new rules also prohibit use of email to discuss certain vaguely defined subjects related to 'network security' and ' information security', "

    From the regulation [isc.org.cn] that the article links to
    taking advantage of emails to engage in activities which are detrimental to network and information security is strictly prohibited in accordance with related laws.

    There is a big difference between "engaging in activities that are detrimental to information security" and "discussing information security"

    But with a title like "China Outlaws Outlook" are you really surprised that they are sensationalizing it.

    • Human rights aside, I would like for my spam filter to get a break from processing Chinese mail.

      I would not be upset if no email ever left China, and I work with some Chinese people who currently live in China. I'm welcome for them to get an out of country email service or proxy to communicate with me, but the signal to noise ratio from China is pretty low. Heck, all of these users have an American account with incoming ssh access and outgoing mail capabilities.

      So, in summary anything limiting outgoing Ch
  • I don't like spam. Its people trying to sell me stuff get my attention and distract me from my work. The world would be great if no one had a need to spam.

    Free speech is an even more powerful concept. This means that everyone has the right to express themselves. EVEN IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT, THEY STILL HAVE THE RIGHT. Spam is a great example defining whose responsibility is it to determine what you hear? Email addresses are effectively public domain - like standing out in public. It's the inbox owner
    • by pete6677 (681676) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:01PM (#15130478)
      You would be correct, if spammers didn't take measures to disguise their messages and get around spam filters. If people want their messages, fine. But forcing your "speech" on others is NOT constitutionally protected, especially if the material you are advertising is more often than not fraudulent.
      • You would be correct, if spammers didn't take measures to disguise their messages

        I agree that people who use email for DNS attacks or other annoying and disruptive actions are not ones I would support.

        But there are 2 problems with your statement above. The "disguise their messages" is vague. Who says someone can't choose to communicate any way they want? No one agreed to the rules you expect for proper english, well formed headers, or proper server syntax. Expressing yourself the way you choose is the c
        • If I find the address of a person online and send an email to the person with a question - technically I'm spammer: I sent an unsolicited email. I sent an unsolicited email.

          I don't know where you got this definition of spam, but I've never heard anyone until now claim that as a definition. Spam has always been mass mailing of unsolicited email, not
          asking one person a question.

          Do the rules change if I send 10,000? If so, this is not consistent with the core of free speech.

          How is that not consistent? If I g
        • If someone wants to talk in the street, he can. However, if I don't like it, I can go away or wear earplugs.

          Spammers, when they "disguise their messages", they don't do it as a form of expression, they do it to circumvent spam filters. It's as if that guy in the street starts to follow me and speak louder so that the earplugs become ineffective. That's harrasment and IIRC, it's illegal.

          As for the definition of spammer [google.com], first one (emphasis mine):

          To indiscriminately send unsolicited, unwanted, irrelevan

    • by eaolson (153849)

      This means that everyone has the right to express themselves. EVEN IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT, THEY STILL HAVE THE RIGHT. Spam is a great example defining whose responsibility is it to determine what you hear?

      Spam isn't a free speech issue. Spam forces the burden of the cost onto the receiver, rather than the sender. It is exactly analagous to junk faxes, which cost very little to send but a great deal to receive.

      Marketers are welcome to send emails to those people that have given their permission. Spamme

      • I would say that spam and junk faxes are directly at the center of the free speech and the problems that arise because of the ease and lower costs in mass communication.

        You have a choice to accept email or faxes. Those costs are ones you choose to accept by connecting to the system. Should we limit free speech to make it more convenient for people? Darn inconvenient when lots of people want to talk and they say things we don't like. Maybe the US should limit assembly too -- to make it more convenient fo
        • You have a choice to accept email or faxes. Those costs are ones you choose to accept by connecting to the system. Should we limit free speech to make it more convenient for people?

          Great, I'll be spray painting advertisements on the side of your car this evening. That's the price you choose to accept by parking it on the street.

          I also accept postal mail. That does not mean that marketers are welcome to send me their advertisements postage due, much as spam does. I also accept telephone calls. That d

    • by JerkBoB (7130) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:28PM (#15130754)
      Email addresses are effectively public domain - like standing out in public. It's the inbox owner who must decide what they want.

      That's stupid and dangerous. You've clearly never run a mail server of any real size. There is a very real and quantifiable cost to spam filtering. For an organization of any significant size (we're talking at least tens of thousands of email addresses), spam and virus filtering needs its own infrastructure. A lot of companies outsource to someone (e.g. Postini). That costs thousands (I know this, I am not talking out of my ass) of dollars every month. Even if the infrastructure is kept in-house, there is a significant up-front investment in hardware, plus the cost of staff to administer the spam/virus filtering infrastructre (if the org is big enough, this could be close to a full-time job). Not to mention the extra bandwidth costs when four spammers do a simultaneous distributed spam run, etc. etc.

      It's not enough to allow the "mailbox owner" (a term that dodges the fact that corporate email is owned by the corporation) to decide whether or not they want to use spam filtering. First of all, most end-users have no idea how to make it happen, second, the company has to pay for the disk to store the shit that users never clean out.

      Spam is not first-amendment-protected speech. If someone is standing on a soapbox yammering about their religion or hawking viagra or whatever, I can choose not to listen, and it doesn't cost me anything either way. Spam, on the other hand, does cost businesses a lot of money, and it costs the spammer virtually nothing. If spammers had to pay per recipient the way direct (postal) mailing marketers do, spam wouldn't be a problem.

      It's 2006. Why are we having this conversation? This was all debated and decided in the late 90s. Did you miss the memo?
    • Actually you are espousing one of the most common misconceptions about the first Amendment. It protects free speech in a PUBLIC FORUM. My email is in no way shape or form public.

      It travels from a privately owned computer, over privately owned wire to my privately owned ISP which I then download from onto my privately owned computer. Where exactly does the email ever enter a public forum hence making it protected?

      People can easily see my address from the street... does this give them the right to drop their
  • by Pao|o (92817)
    That China is a sovereign country with its own set of rules & customs. It has the right to determine it's own destiny without need of approval from the West.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Certainly. However, you seem to forget that we may approve or disapprove without need of approval from China.
    • Absolutely correct. We have NO right to tell them how to run their country.

      Then again, if they're doing something we find egregious or offensive, we're under no obligation to simply accept it, either. We can (and should) be using our wallets to express our unhappiness with Chinese policies like forced abortion, Tiananmen Square, forced repatriation of North Korean refugees [google.com], pirating of movies/CDs/whatever ("Redberry"? Come ON!), and so on. Why the hell we keep selling them technology that they'll just turn

    • And that trumps the rights of the Chinese government. I think all people have a right to a certain amount of privacy and freedom of speech, and I think China violates those rights. Obviously China is still going to do what it likes, and the United States shouldn't and can't directly interfere with that. But going to the other extreme with an isolationist mentality ignores the fact we live in a global world. Trade policies of the US should certainly be influenced by how China treats its people. China do
    • That China is a sovereign country with its own set of rules & customs. It has the right to determine it's own destiny without need of approval from the West.

      Not a great defense of systematic oppression. You speak of the Maoists and the citizens they oppress as one unit. They are not. The Maoists dream of taking their place with other western nations in economic achievement and world influence. They wish to imitiate the material success of these societies while ignoring the values that achieved them.

    • China is a sovereign country with its own set of rules & customs. It has the right to determine it's own destiny
      Amen, the slashdot community should quit strongarming the Chinese government into complying with our will. Just because the whole world has to do whatever slashdot says doesn't mean we should abuse our power.

      By the way, why do you place national self-determination above individual freedom when the two are in conflict?

    • Countries do not have rights. People have rights. The people of China are not determining their own destiny: they are having it imposed on them by a dictatorial regime hell-bent on maintaining power by any way necessary. This regime in no way has any "right" to impose such brutal "customs". It only gets away with it because of its big guns.
  • Come again? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Vorondil28 (864578) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:00PM (#15130473) Journal
    ...and e-mail with discussing vaguely defined subject as network security or information security may not be transmitted.

    What you say? China set us up the bomb?

    Seriously though, is this a big surprise. No doubt it's a sad day for liberty in China, but with the Chicoms' history when it comes to the Internet, we had to see stuff like this coming.
  • Sure, it must've been hijacked somewhere along the way. The Chinese government would never want to curb free speech jsut for the sake of curbing free speech.
  • by msauve (701917) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:05PM (#15130517)
    Under the guise of preventing spam, most US ISPs have decided that running your own e-mail server must be banned, unless you pay extra for a commercial account. They enforce this by blocking SMTP connections except to their own servers, which they do not provide SLA or privacy guarantees on.
  • by posterlogo (943853) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:07PM (#15130532)
    ...whereas us, with all our "freedom", find out that our government is spying on us only when some whistleblower exposes it. What, we've just learned that at AT&T, NSA has the potential to spy on ANY communications that go through the switches there. Does anyone really feel 100% shielded from our own government here in the US? Atleast it's all out in the open there, pretty much. Ignorance is bliss, I guess.
    • Mod parent up please -- this gets to the heart of the matter and puts this in perspective. While most on this board will decry the freedoms being denied to the Chinese by their own government, ask them about the 'Patriot act' and the NSA wiretaps and you'll get the standard, "if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about" short sided nonsense. We're giving up our rights faster than we can create new ones. So look and laugh at China now, it'll be us soon enough at this rate.
  • with a mailserver by default like most distros?

    Kinda funny how the state's endorsed products violates its own laws
    • the summary says:
      >e-mail with discussing vaguely defined subject as network security or information security may not be transmitted

      to which you reply:
      >Doesnt come red flag linux with a mailserver by default like most distros?

      aaaarrrrggghhh!!!!!

      have given up all with completely sensible grammar with you?
  • by night_flyer (453866) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:09PM (#15130559) Homepage
    why do *WE* keep financing these people?
    • why do *WE* keep financing these people?

      Because *THEY* keep financing *YOU*.

      Anyone know how many US government T-bills and other securities are held in China?

    • $,$ and more $. Any questions?
      • Western countries were manufacturing merchandise in China long before the Tianenmen Square event. Meanwhile, China has been buying up American debt. If the States suddenly decide to shutdown their manufacturing plants, what could the Chinese government do with all the bought up American debt?

        If they asked for their money back, would that plunge the U.S. into a deep depression?
    • Correction; they finance you.

      From the first reference [usatoday.com] I could find. Note that it is dated back in "8/27/2005". A more recent estimate on US debt can be found on the US National Debt Clock [brillig.com]

      Other nations actually purchase that debt, in the form of U.S. Treasury bonds and notes. Those bonds have increasingly been snapped up not just by private investors but by foreign banks. Japanese investors hold the most U.S. debt, but China has been buying more than any other country in recent months.

      The biggest tra

    • because nobody in America wants to make that crap. It's called specialization. You pay for things so that you don't have to waste your time doing them yourself, like manufacturing textiles or computer parts. Garaunteed you're running Chinese hardware or at least contributing to the sale of it by posting on slashdot.

      I suppose I just have too much faith in the internet and freedom. The weirdest thing is how insignificant this law is. First we can compare it to more effective regulations on internet communicat
  • I'm not aware of anyone using that one. Exchange, perhaps, but. . .

    On topic, I think this is horrible. What about internal-only email servers? Are those legal? Could that be enforced? Could you be prosecuted for being infected with a piece of SMTP-spewing malware?

  • hijacked? (Score:3, Funny)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:12PM (#15130587) Homepage Journal
    This is china remember. This is how things work over there.

    2 points for them trying to combat spam.
  • So is instant messaging outlawed then? Or must IM's be archived for two years too? Also, does anybody know whether company VPN's are allowed in China? China is semi-pro corporation, but not pro-individual-rights... If VPN's are allowed, are internal emails covered by this?
  • I wonder if Chinese users will start significant adoption of gpg or other encryption technologies to try to keep their communications secure. Of course then the Chinese government will just ban all use of mail encryption if they haven't done so already...
  • by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis@@@gmail...com> on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:22PM (#15130692) Homepage
    Whatever, it's their country and if they want to oppress themselves all the power to them. More so this is a draft n'est pas? How many american bills when drafted seemed daffy?

    It's entirely possible that this is

    [ ] Incorrect news
    [ ] Making the wrong conclusions
    [X] Jumping to conclusions
    [X] Flamebait
    [X] Copying another post, sorry I had to

    Personally I look forward to getting back to Canada and out of the USA so I can get the icky feeling off myself.

    Because Canada

    [ ] Is so much better
    [ ] Has less immigrants
    [X] Doesn't have Bush
    [X] Can tolerate more than one point of view
    [ ] A nation which enjoys equal protection under the law
    [ ] Has quality politicians
    [ ] Has Effective journalism
    [X] Has poutine

    Tom
  • Guys, before we decry this outright as loss of rights, evil dictatorishipness, a stupid move, think. This isn't a stupid move, merely the start of the END OF SPAM! Sure, on their own China won't end spam, but with all nations acting together to ban email servers, there'll be no more email servers left! No servers means no email! Finally salvation for my inbox!
  • Creeping freedoms (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BeanThere (28381) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:29PM (#15130771)

    Is this a sign of the increasing freedoms that politicians argue(d) liberalised trade with China would bring about?

  • Same law in Denmark (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:36PM (#15130849) Homepage
    > all e-mail must be stored for two months

    except here it is part of an "anti-terrorism" law package.
  • Workaround (Score:3, Insightful)

    by VincenzoRomano (881055) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:55PM (#15131044) Homepage Journal
    running your own e-mail server (in China) has been banned
    So you just need to run your own email server outside China. It will cost you a mere buch of bucks a year.

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