Terms of Service: From anti-spam to content takedown

On Sunday, Gartner's Lydia Leong posted an excellent backgrounder on how the internet industry came to have mostly common acceptable use policies, the contractually-embedded standards that apply as far as allowed content and practices. Timely for those wondering how some "up-and-coming" new social media platform would actually end up getting asked to take their business elsewhere (and why other providers might not be champing at the bit to provide that new connectivity). Truth be told, politics probably doesn't enter into it as much as you might think.

It might also help to explain to email marketers why deliverability and compliance people do what they do -- where policy often comes from and why it matters, from the practical perspective.

H/T: Derek Harding

Lashback UBL blocklist: OFFLINE

LashBack's unsubscribe blacklist ("UBL"), as described by its publisher "is a unique, real-time blacklist of IP addresses which have sent email to addresses harvested from suppression files." It's a neat idea, an interesting way to monitor for failures relating to unsubscribe compliance. But it can be tricky when it comes to things like shared IP addresses, address leakage, subscription forgery or data breaches. Are you for sure blocking the actual sender responsible for failure to respect unsubscribes? As I haven't tested it in a while, I can't speak to its accuracy as far as a spam filtering tool. I did test it years ago but that data is so dusty as to not warrant digging it back up. The blocking list has a long history, I believe it having launched in 2005 or 2006.

Anyway, the reason I mention this today is that I've seen a poster on the Mailop list indicate that the Lashback UBL DNSBL is currently unavailable. I've confirmed that the data links offered up on the UBL website seem to be empty. If you use this DNSBL (ubl.unsubscore.com) in any of your spam filtering tools, you'll want to remove it.

Click here for more information on Lashback's blocking list, or here for more information on the company itself.

How to find ISP Contact Information

Need to contact an ISP for a deliverability issue? But you're not sure where to start or don't know where to go looking for contact information? Here's an example of steps you can try to identify contact information.

Keep in mind that no method for looking for contact information is perfect. And while some ISPs use the same contact processes for spam reporting issues and deliverability remediation requests, not all do. There's a chance you could end up emailing the wrong address. So it's important to approach this carefully and not just mail a random bunch of addresses, shotgun-style.

In this example, let's pretend you're looking to reach out to comcast.net about a spam or deliverability issue.

  1. Check the ISP Guides section here on Spam Resource. In my case, I do not yet have an entry for Comcast, so that doesn't do you much good. (But I add new guides periodically, so keep an eye out.)
  2. Next, check Word to the Wise's "ISP Information" page to see if the ISP in question is listed there. If you're lucky, they'll have a postmaster site or unblocking form listed. (In this example, comcast.net has both!)
  3. If that hadn't have panned out, next I'd suggest that you search the web for "Comcast.net postmaster site." Indeed, in this case, you'll find postmaster.comcast.net. This website is chock full of useful information, including details around different types of blocks and how to request unblocking. If you didn't get lucky searching for postmaster, try searching for "comcast.net unblocking request" or "comcast.net unblocking form" or similar terms.
  4. But if that were to fail, you could next try sending an email message directly to the address postmaster@comcast.net. This "postmaster" role address is commonly supported by most ISPs. Some may not support it, however. It may go unanswered, or attempts to mail to it may bounce back.
  5. Assuming that fails, try looking up comcast.net in the public abuse.net database for a contact address - https://www.abuse.net/lookup.phtml?domain=comcast.net. That gives you abuse@comcast.net. (Which in their case, is more appropriate for reporting spam you received, not for requesting deliverability assistance.)
  6. Finally, if you've explored all other options unsuccessfully, try looking up the IP addresses that host mail servers for this domain in the internet registry for that region, then looking for contact information related to the ownership of those IP addresses. That's a common way for ISPs to notify each other of spam, abuse, email continuity and other technical issues.

Here's how to do that.

Start by looking up the "MX" (mail exchange) DNS record for comcast.net: https://xnnd.com/dns.cgi?t=mx&d=comcast.net&m=

Click on the first "is handled by" host name (in this case, mx1 or mx2.comcast.net): https://xnnd.com/dns.cgi?t=a&d=mx1.comcast.net.&m=

Click on the IP address: https://xnnd.com/dns.cgi?t=a&d=96.114.157.80&m=

Now it'll have a link that says "Query ARIN" for a US ISP or "Query RIPE" for a European ISP, (or some other registrar for a different region).

Click on that ARIN/RIPE/etc. link. In this case it leads to: http://whois.arin.net/rest/nets;q=96.114.157.80?showDetails=true&showARIN=false&ext=netref2

That screen doesn't show an email contacts, but you can click down into "Related organization's POC records" which leads you to a page with a list of contacts with different roles. Email issues generally would be considered "abuse" so first choice would be the abuse contact "NAPO-ARIN" - click on that and it leads to: https://whois.arin.net/rest/poc/NAPO-ARIN.html

And you see it has contact information with a listed email address of abuse@comcast.net.

This takes a few extra steps and what you find can vary greatly based on what and how an organization has chosen to register, but it's worth a shot. 

Fort this example, note that I'm just using Comcast as an example. No need to go through all of these steps for Comcast delivery issues -- they've got a very helpful postmaster site where you can find information about why sends get blocked and what you can do to request unblocking.

Top Five Spam Resource Posts of 2020

As the annus horribilis that is 2020 comes to a close, allow me to share the top five most popular Spam Resource posts from this year. Without further ado, they are:

Reference: Suddenlink, Optonline, Cablevision Email Domains

Cablvevision, Optonline, and Suddenlink cable internet services all seem to be owned by Altice USA, a company spun out from the European telecommunications provider Altice.

Now hiring: Amazon

Amazon SES (Simple Email Service) is looking to hire an Email Deliverability Manager. Might that be you? "In this role you will work with the SES team to educate and enable customers, work with email receivers (ISPs), and drive innovation around email technology to maximize the likelihood that email messages are actually arriving at their intended destinations." Find more information here.

Gmail bounce issues on 12/14-12/15

Google's Gmail platform appears to have been throwing intermittent false "user unknown" bounces for just about the past 24 hours. The raw bounce would suggest that an address does not exist, when it does actually exist. Example: