So it seems that my post both here and on Network World about my recent experience with Spam Cop has touched some nerves in the anti-spam community. I understand, no one likes to hear that their baby is ugly or even worse a bully. But I will stand by my initial posts.
My friend Richi Jennings is one of the people saying I am wrong on Spam Cop and he has written a very nice retort here. I read it and we have gone back and forth on some comments, but I think it best I respond here.
First of all Richi and some others have the fact pattern wrong. I was not running a mail list server for a youth sports league. I was sending an email from my own email account to a fellow board member of a youth sports league I am involved with. The message that was blocked was from my own email account. So the whole “mail list management thing” is a red herring here.
Richi says that is even more reason to move my email account. As I wrote previously this is an email account which is kept at GoDaddy along with my domain and web site. It is a shared mail server I am sure (as opposed to someone who commented on Network World that this is what happens when people who shouldn’t administer their own mail servers do so). Moving my domain, web site, database, etc. is going to be a lot of work. I know GoDaddy is not perfect. But again I think Richi and the rest miss the real points of my post because they are so busy defending the stop spam industry.
Secondly I am familiar enough with reputation based filtering and the technology involved. I am not some Internet newbie you have to spoon feed. I owned a hosting company that battled spammers way back in 1995 and have been involved in hosting and the security industry since, so this is not my first ride on the spam tuna boat.
So here are the two main points I was making:
1. Spam Cop should not hide behind the skirts of the blocking ISPs. Don’t tell me that Spam Cop is not responsible for blocking my email, it is the ISP that is doing it. That is akin to me giving you a gun, telling you to shoot someone and then saying, “I didn’t shoot him”. You are still guilty. Stand up and say “we told the ISP that the host you are using has sent spam recently and they blocked your email as a result”. That is the truth and doesn’t make it sound like you are hiding behind someone else for your actions.
2. When you actually put things in writing like “They no longer have any sympathy for the innocent bystanders, such as yourself, who are using a mail server which has found its way onto one of the several major blocking lists.” You are asking for trouble. It is just plain wrong. It violates long standing principles of law and common sense. Let me give you an analogy and see if it helps.
Lets say we lived in an apartment building in a large city. I was there with my wife and sick child who is on an electric respirator. It was a large apartment building with 150 or more tenants. One of those tenants (but not me) had rigged his electric meter and was stealing power from the local electric utility. There was a service that monitored electric usage and notified the utility that someone in that building was stealing electricity. Based upon that, the electric utility shut off electricity to the building. As a result my baby’s respirator didn’t work. Do you think the electric utility and even the electricity monitoring company should be liable at least civilly if not criminally for what happened here? Or are you going to tell me the thief stealing the electricity is responsible for my baby' not having his respirator? I can tell you that I hope that electric company and the monitoring company have very deep pockets and lots of insurance because they are in a heap of trouble.
Our system of justice and law is based on the principle that the innocent are not punished for the crimes of the guilty. In fact there is a legal theory that better 10 guilty men go free than one innocent is punished.
There is also a long standing principle of due process. When I write and say that my email has not been used for spam and you have blocked me wrongfully, I should be entitled to due process and a chance to prove my case instead of just being told tough, even if you are innocent.
This is exactly what you are doing by freely saying we don’t care that innocent bystanders get hurt along the way. That is the same argument used in the theory of “total war” in WW II to justify bombing civilian centers such as London. It wasn’t right then and it certainly isn’t right to use to combat spam.
For the average company (and there are millions of them) that host their web site, data base, web applications and email at large providers like GoDaddy, picking up and moving all of that is no easy task and involves a big expense. Instead of saying the hell with the innocent, how about perfecting the technology so the innocent aren’t the ones being harmed.
The real spammers hop from server to server and when one gets blocked they move on to the next, it is the innocent who get left holding the bag. When your mission becomes so obsessive that you lose sight of protecting the innocent, it is time to step back and reevaluate.