[Politech logo]

Politech is the oldest Internet resource devoted to politics and technology. Launched in 1994 by Declan McCullagh, the mailing list has chronicled the growing intersection of culture, technology, politics, and law. Since 2000, so has the Politech web site.

Ray Everett-Church on systemic problems with SpamCop



Ray Everett-Church is a longtime Politechnical, an attorney, and a board 
member of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email 
(http://www.cauce.org/).

Previous Politech message:
"Politech incorrectly blocked by SpamCop -- for the third time"
http://www.politechbot.com/p-04121.html

-Declan

---

From: "Ray Everett-Church" <ray@everett.org>
To: <declan@well.com>, <politech@politechbot.com>
Cc: <julian@spamcop.net>, <deputies@admin.spamcop.net>
Subject: RE: Politech incorrectly blocked by SpamCop -- for the third time
Date: Mon, 4 Nov 2002 11:43:22 -0800

 > "There is nothing wrong with the system and it may well happen again.
Sorry."

If you find this statement nonsensical and outrageous, you should. As a
veteran of the spam wars for many years, I happen to think using
blocklists can be a good thing. But there's quite a difference between a
well-run blocklist and the poorly run blocklist at SpamCop.

Julian's system is designed to have a hair-trigger response to any spam
complaint from a SpamCop user -- no matter how wrong the complaint is --
which translates through some arbitrary algorithms into a blocklist
entry. Julian knows his system creates a situation in which any idiot
can report valid mail as spam, which in turn can result in blocking that
occurs quickly and without notice. Beyond the potential for outright
malicious blocking by a determined individual, it unsurprisingly results
in frequent problems with blocked legitimate mail. The errors are
predictable and repeatable, but remember, "there is nothing wrong with
the system!" It's a feature, not a bug.

Julian has a standard jig he dances when confronted with the crazy
situations this badly flawed system causes:

- He defends the erroneous spam reports and demands proof that your mail
isn't spam.

- If you can provide that proof, he says, "Oh well, your listing has
expired anyway so you have no reason to complain (until the next time)."

- He reminds you that the "disclaimer" on his site recommends the
blocklist not be used in production environments, as if that absolves
him of responsibility.

In short, SpamCop regularly turns erroneous reports into an erroneous
blocklist. In doing so, he willfully harms legitimate mailers. And
what's worse, he seems to relish it. As such, he's created a system that
adds to the perception of anti-spammers as unreasonable and unconcerned
with the damage that their ill-conceived decisions can inflict. This
makes SpamCop a continuing embarrassment to those engaged in responsible
anti-spam efforts.

Meanwhile, the real problem is with brain-dead sysadmins who abdicate
their responsibilities by letting such a demonstrably unreliable system
make the blocking choice for them automatically. There are far better
blocklists out there with greater reliability. In the end, though, if
your ISP is using SpamCop's blocklist, you deserve to lose the mail that
you are inevitably going to lose.

-Ray




-------------------------------------------------------------------------
POLITECH -- Declan McCullagh's politics and technology mailing list
You may redistribute this message freely if you include this notice.
To subscribe to Politech: http://www.politechbot.com/info/subscribe.html
This message is archived at http://www.politechbot.com/
Declan McCullagh's photographs are at http://www.mccullagh.org/
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Like Politech? Make a donation here: http://www.politechbot.com/donate/
Recent CNET News.com articles: http://news.search.com/search?q=declan
-------------------------------------------------------------------------




Enter your email address to join Politech, Declan McCullagh's moderated technology and politics announcement list:

Return to politechbot.com