May 30, 2024

Keystone SpamKops

Earlier this week, my ISP shut off this site, because the site had appeared on a list of “spammers” published by an outfit called SpamCop.

Apparently, this happened because one person, whose identity I was not allowed to learn, had sent SpamCop an accusation saying that he had received an unwanted email message, which I was not allowed to see, that did not come from me but that did mention my web site. On that “evidence” SpamCop declared me guilty of spamming and decreed that my site should be shut down. Never mind that I had never sent a single email message from the site. Never mind that the site was not selling anything.

Naturally, I was not allowed to see the accusation, or to learn who had submitted it, or to rebut it, or even to communicate with an actual human being at SpamCop. You see, they’re not interested in listening to complaints from spammers.

With help from my ISP, I eventually learned that the offending message was sent on a legitimate mailing list, and that the person who had complained was indeed subscribed to that list, and had erroneously reported the message as unsolicited. Ironically, the offending message was sent by someone who liked my site and wanted to recommend it to others. Everybody involved (me, my ISP, the person who filed the complaint, and the author of the message) agreed that the report was an error, and we all told this to SpamCop. Naturally, SpamCop failed to respond and continued to block the site.

Why did my ISP shut me down? According to the ISP, SpamCop’s policy is to put all of the ISP’s accounts on the block list if the ISP does not shut down the accused party’s site.

Note the similarities to the worst type of Stalinist “justice” system: conviction is based on a single anonymous complaint; conviction is based not on anything the accused did but is instead based on favorable comments about him by the “wrong” people; the evidence is withheld from the accused; there is no procedure for challenging erroneous or malicious accusations; and others are punished based on mere proximity to the accused (leading to shunning of the accused, even if he is
clearly innocent).

Note also that the “evidence” against me consisted only of a single unsigned email message which would have been trivial for anyone to forge. Thus SpamCop provides an easy denial of service attack against a web site.

The only bright spot in this picture is that our real justice system allows lawsuits to be filed against guys like SpamCop for libel and/or defamation. My guess is that eventually somebody will do that and put SpamCop out of business.


  1. A Second Plan For Spam

    Lee’s “Shooting The Messenger” should be shouted around at least as much as Paul Graham’s “A Plan For Spam” was. It’s an excellent rebuttal of the the growing idea that SMTP needs be replaced by a less spam-friendly protocol: There’s…