MAIL ABUSE PREVENTION SYSTEM (MAPS)
950 Charter St.
Redwood City, CA 94063
Contact: Anne P. Mitchell, Esq., Director, Legal and Public Affairs, 650-444-0346, or email email@example.com
MEDIA3 SUES MAPS OVER RBL LISTINGS;
PRIMARY TRO REQUEST IS DENIED
For Immediate Release
Redwood City, CA, December 12, 2000 -- Mail Abuse Prevention System LLC ("MAPS"), the Redwood City, California based anti-spam organization, was sued today in Federal Court in Boston, Massachusetts, by web-hosting company Media3. MAPS has listed over 1500 of Media3's I.P. addresses in its RealTime Blackhole List ("RBL") database.
"Media3's I.P. addresses have been listed in the RBL since at least last month, many for far longer", explained Anne P. Mitchell, Esq., Director of Legal and Public Affairs for MAPS. "Media3 asked the Court to issue a TRO requiring that these I. P. addresses be removed from the RBL, and the Court refused their request, although it did order that we not add any new I.P. addresses belonging to Media3 for the time being."
The RBL is a database, which is updated in real time, containing the Internet addresses of Internet sites which have been proven to either allow their users to send unsolicited commercial email directly, or to use their resources to otherwise profit from unsolicited commercial email (sometimes known as "spam"). Subscriber sites may, at their discretion, choose to block traffic from these sites in order to reduce the burden that this unwanted email places on their networks.
MAPS is based in Redwood City, California and provides spam prevention resources to systems administrators, as well as services to end users. For more information, please contact Anne P. Mitchell, Esq., Director of Legal and Public Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (650) 444-0346.
Friday, December 15, 2000
A judge has denied a request by Web-hosting company Media3 Technologies LLC, Pembroke, MA, to have nearly 1,500 of its IP addresses removed from Mail Abuse Prevention System LLC's Realtime Blackhole List.
The court this week did, however, bar MAPS, Redwood City, CA, from adding any additional Media3 IP addresses to its RBL, a list of alleged spammers.
A hearing has been set for Monday in U.S. District Court in Boston.
MAPS provides system administrators and end-users with resources to prevent abuse through the sending of unsolicited commercial e-mail, or spam. Its RBL is a real-time database containing the addresses of Internet sites that it has determined allow their users to send spam directly or to profit from its delivery.
The company said its dispute with Media3 arose after the company refused to require its Web-hosting customers to stop advertising their Web sites by sending large amounts of unsolicited e-mail. The messages advertised sites hosted by Media3.
"Media3's IP addresses have been listed in the RBL since at least last month, many for far longer," said Anne P. Mitchell, director of legal and public affairs at MAPS. "The proprietors of these Web sites send massive amounts of unsolicited mail from an account with an [Internet service provider], then when that account is shut down for violating that ISP's terms of service, they just move on to another ISP."
Media3 said sending spam is "clearly" against its policy and that MAPS was "misrepresenting" the facts and "mischaracterizing" its actions.
Media3 has had six of its Class Cs added to the RBL: one in June, and five in November. These 1500 IP numbers are now cut off entirely from the rest of the Internet for any Internet provider who subscribes to the RBL (more on this later).
But making these 1500 IP numbers vanish from the net -- which is exactly what happens for any provider who subscribes to the RBL -- does not stop any spam from getting through. They are not blocked because those servers are sending unsolicited email, or any kind of e-mail for that matter.
Media3's service agreement is more-or-less the same as all responsible, anti-spam providers:
"M3 does not permit the transmission of unsolicited e-mail... Subsequent violations will result in suspension and/or termination of the account without refund of service fees..."
And MAPS does not even allege that a single piece of spam has been sent from any of these 1500 IP numbers. As their press release says:
"Media3 refused to require their Web-hosting customers to stop advertising their Web sites by using unsolicited commercial email..."
Even this fact is in dispute. I spoke with Joe Hayes at Media3, and he told me that the company does not tolerate Web sites which promote themselves through spam.
You can check the RBL evidence file yourself. When a MAPS representative spoke with Joe back in June, he told him that he needed to, not tighten up his sendmail rules, but "terminate the Samco [Web] sites and rewrite his AUP to prohibit the hosting of spamware."
Spamware? Yes. Media3 does host Web sites which sell software that sends bulk e-mail and harvests e-mail addresses. Take a look at MarketingMasters.com. Their IP number is 18.104.22.168, which is in the Media3 Class C which was blocked in June. You can look them up on the RBL at http://mail-abuse.org/cgi-bin/ lookup?22.214.171.124.
Again, the blocking of that IP number, their Web site, does not stop a single piece of spam from being sent or received. What it does do is punish the folks at MarketingMasters, whose Web site can't be seen by RBL subscribers.
The problem is that MAPS has put every 209.211.253.x IP number on their list. For example, if you look up 126.96.36.199, you'll see exactly the same message and same rationale.
And 188.8.131.52 is not a spam Web site. It's otherwise known as Peacefire.org, a group of young people who are advocates of free speech rights for teenagers, and -- irony alert -- longtime opponents of censorware.
In fact, if you visit their Web site you'll see many reports about how censorware blocks the good as well as the bad. Their latest, "Amnesty Intercepted," shows that sites like Amnesty International Israel and the American Kurdish Information Network are blacklisted as pornographic by overzealous censorware.
Kind of like Peacefire -- and over a thousand other sites -- are blacklisted by MAPS.
Let's be clear about what censorware does. It does not by itself block content. It "only" rates that content as unacceptable for viewing, and it is up to someone -- your parents? your teacher? your ISP? -- to apply its rules to prevent you from seeing that content.
I don't like spam any more than the next person. But I also don't like censorship, and I take a content-neutral view of these things. If someone delivers a product to be used by Alice to block Bob from seeing website because she doesn't like its content, that product is censorware.
And if that product capriciously, unfairly, and deliberately blocks innocent Web sites, then it's not very good censorware.
In this case, the "bad" Web site sells software which could be used to spam. Frankly, compared to Nazi propaganda or bomb-making instructions, it's pretty tame. But that's not important. Standing up for speech I agree with is easy, everybody does it. If you want freedom, you have to stand up for speech you disagree with.
At least with programs like CyberPatrol, SurfWatch, and Net Nanny, when overblocking mistakes are pointed out, they are corrected. But as MAPS admits in its press release and evidence files, the intent here is not to block the actual Web sites (after all, people who want to buy the software will find a way to buy it).
No, the intent is to get the ISP in question to play ball. The fact that a thousand innocent Web sites are censored is, as far as I can tell, irrelevant.
I don't see much difference between this and any other censorware. One difference is that few other censorware packages are actually free. Another is that fewer are so obviously wielding their power as a retaliatory weapon.
And, there's also the fact that the RBL is used by a backbone provider, AboveNet, whose CTO also happens to be a co-founder of MAPS. Peacefire had no idea that it was being censored until it heard from confused would-be readers. At least with traditional censorware, if your connection to a website is blocked, you have some idea of why. Peacefire's readers naturally had no idea whether their packets were traveling over AboveNet's network, and only knew that their connections were being rejected.
(I contacted Paul Vixie to ask about AboveNet and how it uses the RBL, but he refused comment, sending me to AboveNet PR, who didn't get back to me by deadline time.)
Vixie claimed in 1998 that "MAPS volunteers always contact the owner of a site before it's blacklisted." I'm guessing none of the 1,500 blocked Web sites were contacted.
But then, MAPS also advises Web providers:
"If you host Web sites, we suggest that you use one IP per domain so that if spam occurs for one Web site, we don't have to blackhole you or your other customers to block access to the spamming site."
That's exactly what Media3 does -- and exactly what MAPS did.
Oh, and one more difference. The RBL is more successful than any other censorware package. According to Upside, 20,000 companies that control 40% of all e-mail accounts (and, quite possibly, Web sites); that's up from what ZDNet said in 1998, 2000 ISPs that control 30% of Internet destinations.
I can't find much to argue with in Joe Hayes's summary:
"They [MAPS] are blocking very good educational sites, nonprofit organizations, in their attempts to get us to adopt their definitions in their entirety. They've made no bones about hurting people and while Media3 maintains a policy of not allowing unsolicited e-mails, we do not see completely eye-to-eye on MAPS's definitions because they become very encompassing and very broad. While they have a good tool, and I commend them for their efforts to contain e-mail abuse, they're a good thing gone bad and they have basically become the abuser."
And here's a heavily abridged list of the sites that cannot be accessed via AboveNet, or any of the other providers who use the RBL -- just a few of the sites on just one blacklisted Class C:
Update, something like an hour later: If you're planning to e-mail me or post a comment saying I don't know what I'm talking about because the RBL only blocks mail traffic, please take a moment to read this 1997 interview. Excerpt:
SunWorld: How do you defend your policy of Blackholing Web services that host spammers' Web sites -- even if the spam itself isn't going through their service?
Vixie: This is the most controversial thing we do because it's censorship of something that isn't spam. It's me saying to some Web provider, because you are renting space to this person [a spammer] who is doing something completely legal, I am going to Blackhole your butt.
MAIL ABUSE PREVENTION SYSTEM (MAPS)
950 Charter St.
Redwood City, CA 94063
Media3 Loses Bid for Injunction Against RBL Listing
For Immediate Release
Redwood City, CA, January 2, 2001 -- Mail Abuse Prevention System LLC (MAPS), the Redwood City, California based anti-spam organization, will continue to list Internet Protocol (IP) addresses held by Media3 Technologies, LLC, in MAPS' Realtime Blackhole List (RBL). According to the order handed down today by the Federal District Court in Boston, Massachusetts, Media3's request for preliminary injunction was denied on the grounds that Media 3 had not demonstrated a sufficient likelihood of succeeding on the merits of the suit. The Court also ruled that Media3 had failed to show that it would suffer irreparable injury if the addresses continued to be listed in the RBL.
"This is a highly satisfactory decision", said Anne P. Mitchell, Esq., MAPS' Director of Public and Legal Affairs. "It maintains the status quo and allows MAPS to continue protecting itself through the listing of certain IP addresses on the RBL." Added Mitchell, "The ruling also indicates that the Judge understands the circumstances surrounding the dispute and how it attained its present status." Mitchell went on to say, "This ruling does not, however, mean that the case is over. MAPS is continuing its effort to defend its right to maintain the RBL." Mitchell concluded, "We are confident that our viewpoint will prevail."
MAPS maintains a series of databases, including the RBL, containing the IP addresses of Internet sites which have been proven to either allow their users to send unsolicited commercial email directly, or to use their resources to otherwise profit from unsolicited commercial email (sometimes known as "spam"). Other Internet providers that share MAPS concerns about the serious harm caused by unsolicited commercial email often request access to these databases so that they can decide whether to block email which originates from the listed sites. These and other resources may assist in reducing the amount of unwanted email traffic that often clogs or impairs their equipment.
Media3 has had IP addresses listed in the RBL since June 2000. Media3 filed suit against MAPS in December 2000 in an attempt to obtain relief and to have its addresses removed from the RBL.
MAPS is based in Redwood City, California and provides spam prevention resources to Internet computer systems administrators and end users. For more information, please contact W.D. Baseley, Press Contact for MAPS, at 650-779-7088, or send email to email@example.com
If you've recently sent me e-mail expecting a reply, and you didn't get one, a possible reason is that your mail host is blocking my mail server.
Yes, it seems that my domain, vquill.com, has shown up on the self-proclaimed Mail Abuse Prevention System Realtime Blackhole List (MAPS RBL). MAPS, of Redwood City, Calif. - why are there so many kooks in Redwood City? - claims to provide ". . . spam prevention resources to Internet computer systems administrators and end users." They do this by selling subscriptions to the RBL. The RBL is described as ". . . a system for creating intentional network outages for the purpose of limiting the transport of known-to-be-unwanted mass e-mail." That is, it's a list of sites you should block.
According to MAPS, the RBL only lists "IP addresses that are known to have generated spam or unsolicited commercial e-mail, or provide spam support services." Vquill.com and its IP address of 184.108.40.206 have never done either of these things. I don't send spam, I don't support spam, and I don't condone spam. Yet my site is listed by the cyber-zealots at MAPS.
Why, you may ask - and I did. It turns out that MAPS is having a dispute with the service which hosts my Web server, my Internet Presence Provider, Media3.net. I've been a customer of theirs for more than four years, with very little trouble. Media3 hosts more than 1,200 Web sites and does so very well.
Checking MAPS' reference, I find that someone named Steve Linford at The Spamhaus Project complained that Media3 had blocked his incessant e-mails to their abuse site. Linford wanted to complain about legitimate, legal businesses using Web servers at Media3 to sell products. Because Media3 wouldn't throw out these so-called "spam supporters," Linford asked his buddies at MAPS to block hundreds of Media3-administered Web sites. MAPS agreed, and vquill.com was subsequently blocked.
An exchange of e-mail with MAPS brought the suggestion that I switch providers. I'm sorry, but I've never been one to give in to blackmail.
Find out if your mail provider is using the RBL services of the cyber-goons at MAPS, and if so - protest loudly. Don't let someone else decide what mail you can or cannot receive. And let MAPS know (at firstname.lastname@example.org) exactly what you think of storm trooper tactics.
MAIL ABUSE PREVENTION SYSTEM (MAPS)
950 Charter St.
Redwood City, CA 94063
MAPS ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT IN MEDIA3 CASE
AUGUST 21, 2001 - REDWOOD CITY, CA - Mail Abuse Prevention System, LLC (MAPSSM) announced today that it has settled the lawsuit in which it was involved with Media3 Technologies of Pembroke, Massachusetts.
"The terms of the settlement are confidential," explained Anne P. Mitchell, Esq., MAPSSM Director of Legal and Public Affairs, "however I can say that MAPSSM and Media3 have acheived a reasonable accord, and that we're pleased with the outcome."
Media3 sued MAPS in December of 2000, requesting that the Court order MAPS to remove Media3 from the RBL, MAPS' database of IP addresses which have been proven to originate or facilitate the sending of unwanted email, sometimes known as "spam". Media3 lost their bid to have the Court order that the IP addresses be removed, and discussions ensued, culminating in the settlement announced today.
MAPSSM http://www.mail-abuse.org is based in Redwood City, California and provides spam prevention resources to Internet-connected organizations, as well as services to end users. For more information, please contact 650-779-7021 or email@example.com