[messaging] plausible deniability and transcript editors

Guy K. Kloss gk at mega.co.nz
Thu Jun 26 18:53:27 PDT 2014

On 27/06/14 12:28, Daniel Kahn Gillmor wrote:
> But as for courts, I think many transcripts from unencrypted,
> non-cryptographically-bound communications that are presented to judges
> and juries are in the form of word documents -- pretty much the
> layperson's classic example of an editable document.  And people still
> get convicted with those documents, even if there was no attempt to
> claim cryptographic proof-of-origin.

Yes, that's very sad, indeed. Especially when viewing the fact that
there are web sites that can help you "digitally sign" documents by
pasting either a scanned signature or "Your Name" in a chosen font under
the document. And these are deemed to be legally valid ...

Anyway, forgot one of the arguments in my original post. Even if it
might be difficult to get this kind of line of argument across in court,
the availability of such a tool may also make it viable for "the
accused" to present a differing chat transcript with alternate content.
I'm not a lawyer at all (just a geek), but I think the presence of a
consistent transcript with different content may make the opposite
side's case weaker. So it might be valid to provide such tools to enable

How much impact it will have is then a completely different aspect.

> I wrote up some notes from a similar meatspace discussion at the end of
> last year:
>   https://www.debian-administration.org/users/dkg/weblog/104

Thanks for that link. It's an interesting summary of the legal
situation. I guess it's somewhat US-biased, but then most (more or less)
sane legislations will have a similar position on it.

> I'd say: go for it, make a transcript editor.  But don't do it with the
> idea that this is going to make any sort of legal slam dunk -- the
> courts seem to be perfectly willing to rely on forgeable evidence anyway. :(

Well, you can never trust your common sense to be upheld in the presence
of over-paid, legal spin doctors ... :-/


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