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Neil Gaiman on the risks of unintelligent email filtering


Date: Wed, 26 Mar 2003 14:27:11 -0800
To: declan@well.com
From: Ron Avitzur <avitzur@PacificT.com>
Subject: risks of automated email filtering

I saw this on Neil Gaiman's online journal. It's a well-known old RISK, but
I found the particular context rather funny:


>For several months e-mails to DC Comics would randomly not get
>there. There seemed to be no unifying factor -- I'd send them from
>different e-mail accounts, to different editors and to other
>staffers, at different times. Some of the e-mails would simply never
>get there. Recently Dave McKean sent a cover sketch to me and to the
>DC folk and copied it to me. I got it, they didn't. This was way
>beyond bizarre, and very discouraging. I mean, if all of the e-mails
>didn't get through, one wouldn't care, but randomly not knowing why
>an e-mail would arrive at the other end or not... it made one want
>to bang one's head against a wall. And AOLTimeWarner's computer
>people were no help at all.
>Tonight, an editor at DC copied me on an e-mail she'd received from
>their computer people (about why an email took a very long time to
>get to her) that may go some way to explaining the problem....
>And I quote:
>>I've been informed that the reason why there was a delay in the
>>delivery of this message was because one of several keywords were
>>found within the message. In particular, the word "SANDMAN" was
>>found several times. This has been a telltale sign of one or more
>>computer viruses, so the message was set aside to be investigated by
>>a WB security person.
>I'd be willing to bet that every message I sent them that didn't get
>through had the word SANDMAN in it. And that instead of reviewing
>them, the emails were simply automatically deleted as probable
>viruses. SANDMAN.... found several times... dead giveaway really....
>Amused sigh. Good night.
>posted by Neil Gaiman 12:57 AM

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