Blocklists and standards


I received a comment this morning on my post about e360 v. Spamhaus, which I think brings up a point that deserves a post of it’s own. Skinny says:

If spamhaus can create their own list of what Spam is or isn’t, Then what is to stop us applying this rule in the real world. A joy rider can carry a mission statement declaring that in his terms car theft is ok (a over the top compression but does give the idea).

First off, I do not agree that what happens online is somehow not real. Sure, on the Internet no one knows you’re a dog, but the Internet is real. It is a place where people meet, form communities, interact, make purchases, play, work, research and hundreds of other things. I’ve personally made connections over the Internet that have resulted in a lot of real world things, including friendships, jobs and job offers, this company and even my marriage.
Secondly, I think his analogy is flawed. In my opinion, Spamhaus is not in the position of the joy rider. Rather, they are more like the private security company hired by a group of people to patrol an area and interrupt joy riders as they are stealing cars. The security company has no authority to create laws and cannot arrest or detain someone who might be a criminal. Their job is as a presence and deterrence. They enforce the standards of the communities using their services.
Of course, my analogy is not completely accurate, either. Spamhaus does set standards for what IP addresses they list. Companies that use Spamhaus, and other blocklists, endorse those standards when they use the blocklist. Spamhaus’ users trust Spamhaus’ judgment on what IP addresses are sending spam. If Spamhaus or other blocklists do not exhibit good judgement and are too aggressive in their listings, then receiver sites will not use them.
Spamhaus has set their standards for listing as “unsolicited bulk email.” Their userbase clearly supports this standard, if the SBL started blocking email that users wanted, then people would stop using the SBL. If people stop using the SBL, then it loses the ability create standards.

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