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'Flame' is abusive communication by E-mail or posting to a newsgroup, which attacks an individual or organisation for some real or imagined grievance. The real problem is broader than that of a few rude e-mails: flame represents the anarchistic side of the Internet. The flame may start with only one abusive message, but it is broadcast so widely that large numbers of unconnected browsers join in - often on both sides of the argument. This can lead to 'Flame Wars', where the traffic load becomes so high that communications network performance degrades, and E-mail boxes become blocked - as is the case with bottlenecking and mail bombing.

Problems for companies may arise if a member of staff has used an organisation's e-mail address to start the flame - another reason to monitor staff activities.

Flame has some redeeming features. Deeply unpleasant (or disturbed) individuals who posted lengthy racist (or sexist, or some other -ist) diatribes have found themselves flamed off the Net....

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