[linux-elitists] retaliation blacklisting

Eugen Leitl eugen@leitl.org
Mon Jul 8 23:25:10 PDT 2002

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 08 Jul 2002 21:35:30 -0400
From: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
To: politech@politechbot.com
Subject: FC: David Scott Anderson: An unapologetic resume spammer, and a  twist

David Scott Anderson is not merely a resume spammer -- he's a singularly 
unapologetic one.

Last Tuesday, Anderson spammed me with his resume ("Robust understanding of 
Internet and other new-economy technologies"), which listed a 
dsanderson3@yahoo.com address as a reply point. I dutifully forwarded his 
spamogram to Yahoo's abuse address, with a copy to him, which I try to do 
with spam if I have time.

Anderson was not just irked. He was positively peeved. He fired off a 
nastygram calling me an "asshole" for reporting him to Yahoo. Quoth 
Anderson in his reply: "I have looked at your site, and AM NOT impressed, 
you are a sniveling little technophile who has the arrogance and sense of 
self importance the actually believe someone cares!"

He confidently predicted that he's "not afraid of Yahoo warning me about 
spamming" and said "don't bother to respond, or if you do, respond to 
Yahoo's SPAM Bot, I am sure they will be greatly moved by your whining."

I wrote back, again copying abuse@yahoo.com, saying: "Of course you are in 
violation of Yahoo's terms of service. Perhaps they will not choose to 
enforce it, but I suspect they will. Not only are you an recidivist 
spammer, you are an unapologetic one." (For the record, I have no idea what 
Yahoo did, if anything.)

That exchange was no surprise. As anyone who's tussled with spammers knows, 
a heated response when you report someone is hardly unusual.

But what happened next was. Later that day, near as I can tell, Anderson 
reported my mail server to SpamCop and OsriSoft.com -- alleging, 
incorrectly, that I was spamming him. (This is, incidentally, the same mail 
server that runs the Politech list.)

To their credit, SpamCop wrote to me on July 6 saying that Anderson's false 
accusations violated SpamCop's rules: "I took action against him according 
to our Terms of Service." You can see the SpamCop report here:

OsriSoft.com, on the other hand, appears to have incorrectly listed my mail 
server as a spam-site for a few days, preventing some list subscribers from 
receiving mail or sending submissions to Politech's list address. On 
Saturday, one list member who was wondering what happened sent me this 
excerpt from his mail log:
>Jul  4 13:19:20 [deleted] sendmail[6743]: NOQUEUE: ruleset=check_relay, 
>arg1=server1.cluebot.com, arg2=, relay=server1.cluebot.com 
>[], reject=553 Mail from refused; see 

The Politech mail server is no longer listed, but a policy of 
add-first-and-check-later raises troubling questions about how reliable 
blacklists can be. I like the concept in theory, but in practice they seem 
to be far more problematic than smart (perhaps eventually collaborative) 
end-user filtering. See:

As longtime Politechnicals know, this isn't the first time I've been 
accused of spamming. A Fleishman-Hillard sysadmin reported Politech to the 
same cluster of anti-spam services:

Since last week, Anderson has variously (a) threatened to sue me, (b) 
accused me of racism, and (c) announced that he had reported my server to 
uce@ftc.gov, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's report-spam-here address.

Excerpts from a representative email:
- "I will be contacting an attorney..."
- "Is it possible that you are a racist. Did you go to my site and see that 
I am African American, and have a problem with that?"
- "The resume was sent to you by a service, not me personally..."

He's also complained to the Well (which I use for email), with the Subject: 
line "Harassment Complaint."

Yes, of course these complaints are spurious. Yes, they can and should be 
ignored. But I wonder what would happen to someone else -- who may not be 
as familiar with the Internet and the law -- who attempts to report a 
spammer. If their account is blacklisted by a "anti-spam" service, if they 
receive legal threats, and if their Internet provider is contacted, they 
may not be so nonchalant in reply.

In other words, the current system isn't working. It's too user-hostile, 
and (in the typical refrain) arose as a successor to the 
postmaster@hostname system that, in turn, was developed when the Internet 
was a far smaller and friendlier place. It's also -- one report today 
estimated that 80 percent of Hotmail's incoming mail was spam -- hardly 
bringing us towards that clean-inbox goal. My cnet.com email address is 
just a few weeks old, but I'm getting as much spam sent to it as legitimate 

One obvious minor solution is not to reply to spammers and send mail only 
to the abuse@ address. But in my experience, copying both addresses works 
better: Some abuse admins aren't quick to respond, while spammers seem to 
be more willing to delete you from their lists if they know they've already 
been reported.

Back to our benighted resume-spammer. Philip Greenspun, who founded 
photo.net, popularized the idea of a "hall of shame" for some of the Net's 
most anti-social miscreants:

I've added Anderson to my own list-of-spammers. I get hundreds of pieces of 
spam a day, true, so it generally would not be worth the bother. But anyone 
who is so doggedly noxious and who successfully manages to disrupt Politech 
delivery -- a first, I believe -- deserves a dishonorable mention! Here's 
the site:


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