Opt-in Censorship?

As I said to Ken Magill for his recent article regarding Truthout: From what I know of how spam blocking works, and how ISPs make the determination regarding what mail to block, I don't think Truthout's issues (being blocked at Hotmail and AOL) relate to their politics. I think they relate to their opt-in procedures, bounce handling, feedback loops, and whitelisting. The issues are technical, not political.

Getting it Half Right

I'm now utilizing “second stage” filtering, using the primary Spamhaus blacklist, the SBL. For me, it's an experiment. I just wanted to see how well it works and what kind of mail it catches. I know that a large number of email addresses are now behind this kind of filtering – at least one domain registrar (who hosts mail for a zillion different domains) has been using this type of filtering for at least the past few months. So I wanted to see what kind of senders are getting tripped up in this kind of filtering, and how well it works as a spam-blocking methodology.


MailChimp is looking for a few good....monkeys. Ha.

Oh, please.

Another political group is complaining about the big meanies at AOL and Hotmail not accepting their mail.

This is nothing new, but I'll mention yet again what I mentioned then: Delivering mail to Hotmail and AOL is hard only when you don't know what you're doing. When you're driving spam complaints and garnering a poor sending reputation, then yeah, you get blocked. Politics have nothing to do with it.

Carl Hutzler agrees. In case you don't know who Carl is, he is the guy who used to be in charge of all that spam filtering stuff at AOL.

Sad to see Truthout wasting their time playing the blame game, instead of fixing their practices.

More on this topic from Mark Brownlow.

Spam, the Documentary

You can catch anti-spam professional (and Internet for Dummies author) John Levine on TV tomorrow. He writes:

Last year I helped some Canadian film makers do a TV show called "Spam, the Documentary". Now US viewers can see it on Court TV tomorrow Sept 18th at 11pm EDT or the 19th at 3am EDT. (Well, at least the insomniacs or the ones with TiVo can see it.)

It came out quite well; they start by interviewing Terry Jones about the original Monty Python spam skit, then you can see Dave buy a genuine fake Rolex, try a weight reduction wrap, and discuss the likely effects of enlargement products with an actual doctor (ewww). You also see quite a lot of me doing narration from a cybercafe in Toronto.

The CBC's web page at http://www.cbc.ca/thelens/program_171006.html has more info and a promo clip.

I got to see this when it first came out last year. Good stuff!

The Real Spam Has Stood Up

In "Will the Real Spam Please Stand Up?," Kevin Stirtz disagrees with the statement, "until a user has opted-in to your email list, you are sending spam."

All fine and good. Nothing wrong with a bit of disagreement. I'll prove it: I disagree!

Do any of the following apply to what you're doing?
  • You add people to an email list and start mailing them without their prior knowledge.
  • Recipients on your list aren't expecting your mail.
  • You bought an email list.
  • You found one or more email addresses on the web and added them to your list.
If any of those apply to what you're doing: You're a spammer, dummy.

Forget about Web Marketing 101, let's talk about Email Marketing 101, and how to get your email delivered.

Target it all you want, avoid including a sales pitch, whatever. But if you build a list of people who didn't ask to hear from you, and are not expecting to hear from you, you're not going to have the ability to successfully deliver to that list. It's that simple.

Forget what Kevin thinks. Forget what I think. What do ISPs think? Let me clue you in: ISPs hate spam, because their users hate spam. When you send unwanted and unexpected email, recipients report it as spam in overwhelming numbers. Those spam reports significantly damage your sending reputation. Hotmail, Yahoo, and AOL will filter or reject your mail as a result. You're likely to get blacklisted by Barracuda, Spamcop, Brightmail, and Spamhaus, as a result.

In spite of a cheekily-written blog post containing a clever redefinition of what constitutes spam, permission remains key to getting your email delivered. Sure, you can get away with bypassing permission -- for a little while. Until your sending reputation catches up to you. Just because it hasn't caught up with Kevin (yet), doesn't mean it makes for a sustainable marketing model or best practice.

It seems that I'm not the only one with this viewpoint, either.

Zombie Pfizer Computers Spew Viagra Spam

Look, it happens to everyone. Run a large network some time. Put a Windows box, or two, or a thousand, on it. Eventually somebody will find a way to bypass the Anti-Virus, and there'll be an infection.

I've had to call a big company here or there, having traced a spam source back to an infected desktop on their network. Usually their response is, "Ugh, we know! Thanks for the report, you're one of thousands who let us know. We're in the midst of a security audit to clean it all up."

Unless you're Pfizer. Then what do you do? If this article is to be believed, you stick your head in the sand and hope it all goes away. Hopefully this wake up call from Support Intelligence can get them to clean up their network.

How much of your spam came from an IP address on Pfizer's network? I smell a project for the weekend.

More on the Spamhaus Ruling

From noted anti-spam professional and "Internet for Dummies" author John Levine:

By my reading this is as close to a complete victory as Spamhaus could have hoped for. There was no chance the appeals court would throw out the default, since that would have been an invitation to every losing defendant in the midwest to tell their lawyers to withdraw so they could start the case over again. Beyond that, E360 now has no damages and no injunction, and a steep hill to climb to get either of them back.

As I read the decision, the only injunction that E360 is entitled to at this point is one forbidding Spamhaus from saying that E360 was spamming in September 2006. (Well, OK.) If they have been spamming since then, which I happen to know they have since they've sent quite a lot of it to users on my network, Spamhaus is free to re-list them, and any plausible injunction forbidding that would fail as prior restraint. (emphasis added)

Read John's full commentary here.