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[ih] Free Speech and ARPAnet?

    > asserted, "The Internet started as a bastion for free expression."

IMO, to explore the roots of this question, one really needs to dig back into
the ARPANET, because i) the APRANET 'community' imperceptibly evolved into the
Internet, and ii) that's where the free speech issues first came up.

    > This piqued my interest, as I felt it was an inaccurate
    > characterization.  My understanding was always that the early research
    > focused on improving network facilities for research collaboration, and
    > that these issues of free speech really didn't start to come to the
    > forefront until the 1990s when the Internet began to take root in
    > society.

I think that's broadly correct.

    > What were the attitudes towards speech/appropriate conduct early in
    > the ARPAnet project? Was an environment of collegiality and respect
    > generally expected?

One needs to distinguish between official policy, and community standards. As
to the latter, as Vint says, since it was rooter in academia, it generally
followed the standards there.

As to the former, I'm reluctant to rely on my memory. I had a quick look to
see if any of the standard works on the subject (e.g. "Where Wizards") discuss
the issue, and I didn't find a definitive answer.

It is pretty clear that to _connect_ to the ARPANET, one had to have some sort
of government association, i.e. be a part of the government, or have a
government contract (e.g. from DARPA). For more detail, see "Inventing the
Internet", pp. 84-85.

(In this connection, I should note tht the nature of the ARPANET, with its
centralized control from BBN, made it harder for someone to just 'join
in'. BBN was the only source of IMPs, they ran the network from a central NOC,
etc. The Internet was much easier; one got a network number from Postel, and
then one could join up to someone else who was already 'on the Internet'.
That's how I connected Proteon up to the Internet; MIT had its own PDP-11
based IP routers, and we just put one at at Proteon, and rented a leased

And in theory, just because an _organization_ was connected, that didn't mean
everyone who worked there was authorized to use the ARPANET; one had to have
some work function which was related to work for ARPA. Some sites put in real
access controls to enforce this; IIRC, MIT-Multics had mechanisms so that only
authorized users (a subset of of the larger set of users of the machine) could
get access to the ARPANET.

However, what one could _do_ on the network, once one was connected, was a
different matter, of course. My _vague recollection_ is that there was a
policy that the network be used only for 'official government business', which
broadly included anything covered in a DARPA contract. So if one had a
contract to do computer science research, anything that fell under that was
legit. (Which is not exactly your question, I realize, but if speech is
limited to 'government business', it's pretty clearly not free speech, yes?)

Where exactly the boundary was, I don't think was clearly drawn. So things
like SF-Lovers and the 'wine lovers' list were clearly pushing the
limits. (SF-Lovers was semi-officially accepted, as a source of traffic which
loaded the network, to explore the limits of its ability to handle load.)

    > Were there any incidents that led to either a written or *de facto*
    > content policy on ARPAnet? Were there individual policies enacted by the
    > institutions that were connected to ARPAnet?

In "Where Wizards", there is mention of an incident involving the Quasar
'robot'; see pp. 208-211. I have this bit set that there were other ones, but
I don't recall the details.

    > When *did* the Internet emerge as a "bastion for free expression"? Was
    > this area of the Internet's societal impact explored before the Internet
    > became broadly publicly available?

Again, one has to get back to pre-Internet roots. The UUCP network (which was
_not_ government funded) supported email and NetNews, which had a much more
open and free-wheeling ethos. I suspect the "bastion for free expression" is
as much (more?) rooted there than anywhere else. NetNews eventually migrated
pretty much 'en bloc' to the Internet, and the UUCP network slowly disappeared
as people joined the Internet. "Inventing the Internet", pp. 200-201, 204
provides a brief look at this, and I think there are papers about Usenet
which go into more detail.