Thursday, 7 November 2002
|1652 - Spam, spam, spam, spam, lawyers, spam, spam and spam|
I, and a lot of other folks, use the SPEWS list to block email from hosts and networks that support and facilitate spamming. SPEWS operates anonymously, and does not contact anyone or accept contacts from anyone. The FAQ does say that anyone wanting to discuss SPEWS listings should do so in the Usenet newsgroup news.admin.net-abuse.email . This results in a lot of postings there complaining, blustering, threatening, and whining about being listed, especially since SPEWS does not list just the sources of spam, but also expands those listings to take in larger and larger chunks of network space from providers that do not terminate spamming customers.
A common feature of these complaints is that the person making them will often threaten to sue if the listing isn't removed. This is funny on several levels, as well as usually being quite naive legally (the common wisdom on the anti-spam side is that SPEWS is doing nothing but publishing opinions about who is a spam supporter, period, an activity protected by the First Amendment).
Today, a sysadmin for the American Bar Association posted, saying that their systems were part of a SPEWS listing. The posting was refreshingly clueful, and notable because they did not make any legal threats at all. Perhaps the ABA is more professional than a bunch of spammers, after all...
current mood: amused
Freedom of disassociation
Actually, what SPEWS is doing is the flip-side of the freedom of association, and its logical corollary, which is the fre3edom *not* to associate with someone. As I gather it, the SPEWS subscribers (if that's the proper term) "hire" SPEWS to keep certain unwanted communications out of email and such. Were SPEWS to actually prevent a spammer from pressing the "send" button, as it were, there might be a scintilla of an argument. Only a scintilla, of course, since SPEWS, to my knowledge, is not a government agency. The Bill of Rights is, in effect, a contract between the government and the people that govern their relationships, not the relationship of person/people v. other persons/people. Therefore, anyone whining about constiutional rights being trampled by SPEWS' activities are not on point...and most likely never took constitutional law.
Just my minkie $0.02'orth.
The problem that's coming into play regarding SPEWS or any other service that does black-listing of mail is that if a major ISP like AOL were to subscribe to it and to use it for all their customers (20-some million) that could be effective sensorship of the SPEWS listees by AOL. (At least, this is how I've heard their arguments). That may not be a valid legal argument, but I do believe I've read of a few cases where when presented in this light, there's a bit more sympathy to the SPEWS (or other blacklist) listees.
Still doesn't address the issue of constitutionality, since AOL (perhaps thankfully) isn't the government. And the fact that the world's largest ISP would shut you off, while too bad, doesn't make it any mor eor less evil. Waldenbooks isn't required any more than Joe's Corner Book Shoppe to carry any one book.
First, SPEWS and any list like it are purely advisory. It's the ISP's resources and choice. They could copy SPEWS's list, maintain it as their own, and it'd have the same effect. It's no more censorship than me refusing to answer my phone when the caller ID doesn't resolve.
Next, I believe SPEWS is -too- strict in their listing, so I take the advice of osirusoft and spamhaus (and use spamassassin) instead.
Finally, I have no sympathy whatsoever for ISPs who turn their back on their own TOSs, much less those who knowingly house these spammers. I view those who use these lists to make their MTA decisions are voting with their resources against such ISPs, and it should provide incentive (however negative) for them to shape up.