Share and distribution of illegal/illicit content prevention

Hi everyone me and my girlfriend are having a quite animated discussion about the topic in subject and we are seeking some answer which hopefully some of you in the community can give us.

We are both excited and thrilled about the pulse concept and we are going to give it a try very soon.

We also started looking about the future roadmap of the project and how Waystone and Heartbeat will come into place later on to provide a private and secure way for people to share content. That’s where our questions and concerns started arising. While it’s quite easy for us, having the proper background, to understand how the platform can/could ensure identity, security and privacy we are wondering how is it possible due to the nature of the encrypted communication happening between the various peers to ensure and prevent that illegal content such as child pornography, videos promoting violence, criminal activity and racism is shared/distributed?

We tried to search in the forum but without particular luck and we were wondering if this problem has been discussed before and if there are any ideas about how to tackle this challenge where the Internet plays an active role in making this real life problem viral.

Thanks for all the answers that hopefully will come this way.

Not unless you are sharing these with a third party that is then able to inspect the data.

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Which will obviously defy the principle on which Pulse, Waystone and Heratbeat are based upon. But not having surveillance for these behaviours will probably put you in a difficult position in future I suppose. Wouldn’t this make you liable and responsible for facilitating illicit and illegal sharing?

I can see how with Waystone you can easily solve the accountability problem, still what’s shared is out of control and despite I appreciate that is the way it should be because this is what we are longing for, on the other hand I think we don’t want to be responsible of feeding certain behaviours.

I know it’s a difficult question and take a fair position on this matter is not easy but this is why I wanted to open this discussion with the community hoping to find a fair and acceptable solution.


Surveillance for “illegal” content (by which definition/law?) would require some sort of security hole or backdoor.

In whatever way you want to do that, it will inevitably be used against honest users, too. So I hope no one will ever implement something like this.

“He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.”

(Besides, Tor, Freenet, i2p and many other projects also allow anonymous distribution of illegal content, and they are still around and doing well).


I’ll let the people doing the services you mention answer that.

@Nutomic so you are basically telling me that for you, in the name of freedom, it is acceptable to be like anyone else, shrug and to let child pornography or organised crime spread also thank to Pulse and Waystone rather than be different and innovative and try to find a way to avoid that? How does your project differentiate from the others then? Sorry for being a bit of a devil’s advocate but I’m also looking for a reason to invest in your project rather than in the competition.

To answer your question, if you want to speak legalese, defined by the European Union Directives, but in all honesty I don’t think we need law to define where the right of freedom for human beings should stop to provide safety for those who can’t protect themselves.

@calmh what do you mean? Are you referring to waystone and heartbeat?

@debo The difference is that we don’t spy on people based on excuses like “child pornography” and “organized crime”. Most people participating in that are smart enough not to post that to Facebook, Dropbox etc. Instead, they should be caught in the same way it worked before the internet: police investigation, and not by putting everyone under surveillance.

I was asking for your definition of the law because it’s different in every country. How do you think this could be handled for every single country, without some central surveillance authority? (that would be against the very spirit of these projects).

(These are all my personal views)

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Syncthing/Pulse is one way among many to move information from one computer to another in an encrypted format. It’s not even especially suited for “distribution” in the common sense.

Lets not turn this into a political discussion or draw up straw men around spreading child pornography.

(Also, note that Waystone and Heartbeat are services potentially provided by, but which I currently know next to nothing about and which the syncthing/Pulse developers are not currently involved in. Hence the dodging of the “wouldn’t this make you liable” question, whatever the answer to that might be.)

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@calmh thanks for the further explanation, I asked here following Aral’s suggestion on twitter, thinking that you guys were all collaborating together in the creation of those products and services.

@Nutomic I don’t think it’s an excuse, it’s a real problem to me. I agree with you, they are smart, let’s not give them a way to be “smarter”, that’s my point.

Prevention of distribution of illegal content is not technically possible nor feasible for this project, because it is not monitored and/or distributed centrally, and modification of it is possible for any reason, by anyone whose technical knowledge is adequate enough to do so, thus negating the usefulness of the former implementations.

Yeah that’s been clear for the seven years since this topic reached its conclusion…