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Blocklists, delisting and extortion

As I’m sure many of you have heard by now there is a new blocklist called ‘nszones.’ This blocklist is apparently stealing data from a number of other publicly accessible blocklists, combining the data and then charging folks for delisting.
This is a scam attempting to extort money from people. The blocklist has no way to actually remove IPs from the parent zones and I’m pretty sure they won’t even remove IPs from their own zones. In this case, the blocklist is clearly a scam, but there are other lists that are actually used by some mailservers that do charge for removal.
No legitimate blocklist will ever expect a listee to pay for delisting. Ever.
I feel very strongly about this. In fact, one of the major blocklists is run off a domain owned by Word to the Wise. Occasionally, I get contacted by folks looking for help with a listing on that list and I will not take them on as a client. I will provide general advice and make sure that they are correctly contacting the blocklist but nothing more.
This is, to my mind, the only ethical thing to do. I don’t even want a hint of impropriety surrounding either myself or the blocklist. Charging money for delisting only feeds the conspiracy theories.
Charging listees for removal (or listing listees so those charges can be a revenue source) is likely to lead to poor quality data and a blocklist that’s not terribly accurate nor effective. Furthermore, if a list operator is unethical or confrontational in their interactions with listees, they’re probably equally unprofessional in their interactions with potential list users. This results in few recipient domains actually using the list to block mail. Lists that charge are not widely used and being listed on them often does not affect email delivery in any appreciable manner.

6 comments

  1. Annalivia says

    Well said. Demanding money to get off a blacklist has always struck me as extortion, and how can one possibly trust the integrity of the list’s data, if someone stands to gain, the more IPs are listed??

  2. Tim Boyer says

    Laura, I’m curious. I know of a couple of lists that require payment for ‘expedited’ service – and yeah, that’s a fine ethical line if ever there was one.
    But are there any that actually refuse to unlist unless they’re paid?

    1. laura says

      Yes, there are.

  3. Lee says

    SORBS. They want a “fine” of $50. You make a donation to a charity that they approve of.
    How about just requesting data from the offender, or more importantly, providing it so he knows what to stop doing?

  4. BillG says

    Is SORBS located in the USA? If so, they should be reported for questionable business practices. They should at least allow first time offenders to be removed for free. Does anybody have contact info for them?

  5. Brian says

    Yes, SORBS is notoriously bad for this. I was assigned a /24 block from my ISP of which the entire /19 is blacklisted by SORBS. I looked through the SORBS data and it appears they listed it because a spammer was using just SIX addresses out of the entire /19 for mailing Bosley related offers (allegedly spam) back in 2005. In 2009 I was asking them to remove the block as the original alleged ‘offenders’ were no longer using the block, and they told me to either buy hardware they needed (donate to them) or donate to a charitable cause that they approve of. SORBS is NOT a charitable cause. I don’t think too many responsible ISPs or mail server administrators are outright blocking by SORBS data any longer, and if anything, just use it to score a bit higher. But their practices are ridiculous. SORBS almost went under because their sponsor cut them off, but they found a buyer last minute. I just imagine what these new folks will do with them.

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