The so-called Freedom Knights is a loose online organization founded/led by USENET veteran Dave Hayes. Hayes for a long time was the network administrator at NASA's JPL. He had some pretty strong ideas about USENET and its openness. He wanted to keep it that way. Of course, so did the spammers who wanted to post binaries of men having sex with dogs to the schoolnet hierarchy or comp.risks.

In response to the ever growing tide of spammers, spewers, and "out of range" binary posters, an enigmatic fellow introduced the famous CancelMoose. The CancelMoose issued forged cancel messages for USENET posts when it detected the same message being posted to several newsgroups. It's important to understand the CancelMoose did not cancel on content. If you posted a long winded rant to rec.arts.movies.starwars about how you invented the color orange and Anita Bryant refuses to grant you just compensation, you wouldn't be cancelled. If you posted it to 18 different newsgroups, chances are the CancelMoose would catch it and delete it. The simple assumption is only spammers post the same message multiple times, beyond a defined threshold. Eventually the CancelMoose creator "retired" but others took up the reigns.

Something about these self-appointed cancellers didn't sit right with Dave Hayes. Sure, every newsadmin was free to ignore a cancelbot's cancel messages. But to Hayes, newsadmins shouldn't be free to decide anything for themselves and how best to use their own machine. Personal choice? Not on Hayes' watch. You should be required to accept and pass on the spam just as you accept and pass on any ol' message.

David Hayes created a bot that would automatically repost anything the cancelbots cancelled. Hoping to get others on board, he formed the Freedom Knights. Uh huh. Although the name of the group was about the queerest1 thing anyone had ever heard, Hayes himself had a certain respectable cache, given his position as a NASA newsadmin "back in the day". The same could not be said for the people who joined his Freedom Knights. They had, err, lesser reputations. Now, you'd think the spammers themselves would be some of Hayes' earlier Freedom Knight adopters. But spammers don't really pay much attention to USENET as a community. It's just "something". Ads go out on that something and sometimes you get a solid lead from a guy actually willing to pay $90 to find out how to make his dick 3" longer. (Hint, most dicks grow 3" or more when erect ... and you don't have to pay me $90 for that secret. And if yours grows more, I don't care to know. Thanks.)

Those who took a real interest in the final destruction of cancelbots were the most notorious USENET kooks on the face of the earth. Why? Eventually all USENET kooks encounter the cancelbot, for this is the order of things:
  1. Kook posts a couple indecipherable messages to a couple USENET newsgroups.
  2. Kook gets back a few "shut the fuck up" responses.
  3. Kook decides Joe Average would never respond "shut the fuck up" to a perfectly normal insane ranting. So, he posts his message to other groups.
  4. He gets more "shut the fuck up" responses.
  5. He posts further and wider. He eventually crosses the cancelbot threshold and discovers his posts have been cancelled.

Now it's personal.

The very structure of USENET is against him. If he's not free to disseminate his views everywhere all the time, he'll never find that one person on the planet that says "You know, your post makes total sense! Can I follow you?"

Then he joins the Freedom Knights. For a time major kooks like Steve Boursy, Dimitri Vulis, and John Grubor were the most vocal proselytizers of the Freedom Knight organization, yapping about it endlessly on USENET and Hayes' somewhat hypocritically censored Freedom Knights mailing list.

Like all love fests begun out of shared persecution, the Steve Boursy, Dimitri Vulis, and John Grubor version of the Freedom Knights fell apart a couple years later after they all discovered they had less in common than they thought.


1 This phrase originally read "Although the name of the group was about the gayest thing anyone had ever heard," but some Definition Hitler felt that "gay" has the sole definition "homosexual". He felt since "gay" could only mean "homosexual" that this phrase then was highly insulting to the gay community. It's not possible that "gay" in this context implies "blithe" (i.e., "showing a lack of due concern; casual"). No. So I decided I'd remove the offensive word "gay" and replace it with a more accurate adjective to describe this blithely named organization.

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