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I'm Guilty Until Proven Innocent
|(c) Jim Edwards - All Rights reserved
No doubt about it.
"Spam" (unsolicited commercial email) threatens to
paralyze and ultimately destroy the email system as it
currently exists on the Internet.
Anyone with an email address can attest to the fact that
the avalanche of Spam has only increased in the last year
and shows no sign of stopping.
However, the current system many Internet Service
Providers (ISP's) use to deal with Spam may just destroy
the Internet's email system long before the spammers do.
Now, I won't deny that the weight of the Spam on any
ISP's resources can rate very significant.
It's been estimated that between 30-60% of all email now
sent is Spam!
This means that 30-60% an ISP's system resources
(bandwidth, hardware, system maintenance) go towards
delivering messages nobody wants to receive.
Out of self-defense, many ISP's turn to third party
services like SpamCop, SPEWS (Spam Prevention Early
Warning System), and SpamHaus to help them identify
sources of spam and block the messages before their email
systems get clogged.
No Trial - No Defense - Guilty!
In theory, it's a great system.
In practice, it creates a situation resembling a witch
hunt where the accused gets burned at the stake without a
trial, let alone the ability to face their accuser.
Here's how the system works.
Let's say a business habitually sends legitimate email to
its customers or prospects who asked to receive the
As long as nobody complains, life proceeds as normal.
But then let's say one of those people forgets they opted
in to the business's email list and reports an email
message as spam to one of the services I mentioned above.
Result: the business gets blacklisted by one or more of
these services and ISP's in turn automatically block
email (legitimate email) sent by the business to its
customers and opt-in subscribers.
To make matters even worse, nobody at these anti-spam
services bothers to let the business know they've been
When the business finally discovers their status and
tries to contact SpamCop, SPEWS or SpamHaus, the real fun
If the business does discover which service(s)
blacklisted them, they'll find they can't call anyone on
the phone to discuss the problem.
They also discover these services are totally unregulated
and there is no higher court of appeals.
Any email responses from these services often contain a
smug attitude of assumed guilt that scoffs at your claims
Also, don't bother asking for the opportunity to face
your accuser in order to prove your innocence because
they get to hide behind a cloak of anonymity.
Combining this attitude of assumed guilt with the
inability to prove your innocence creates a recipe for
disaster for every legitimate business.
Oh, by the way, while writing this article, I received 19
spam email messages through an ISP monitored by all 3
Makes you wonder, doesn't it?
In the end, the current system only creates opportunity
for abuse that targets legitimate businesses while the
real spammers just merrily keep sending their flood of
About the author:
Jim Edwards is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the
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