Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(February 2003)

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Subject: Re: [Fwd: EFF Mailing List Query]
From: Greg Woods <woods @ ucar . edu>
Date: 23 Feb 2003 09:07:17 -0700
To: list-managers @ greatcircle . com
In-reply-to: <96E29AE2-4744-11D7-8BFC-0003934516A8 @ plaidworks . com>
References: <96E29AE2-4744-11D7-8BFC-0003934516A8 @ plaidworks . com>

On Sun, 2003-02-23 at 08:36, Chuq Von Rospach wrote:
> Not FUD. mailing lists are losing an increasingly significant number of 
> messages to badly written and managed spam filters

I don't consider it a *huge* problem at our site, but there have been
some incidents of users that were using SpamAssassin having some
legitimate mail blocked. Usually these were messages of a commercial
nature, but coming from mailing lists that the user asked for.
Unfortunately it is hard to tell the difference between solicited and
unsolicited commercial mail; it requires the user to install explicit
whitelists for their commercial mailing lists, or not use SpamAssassin.

Another problem has been mismanaged hosts with legitimate users on them.
One example is a woman here whose mother is a schoolteacher, and trying
to send her mail from a k12 site that had been blacklisted because it
was installed by someone who didn't really know what they were doing and
it was an open relay. We tried for days to contact someone at the school
who even knew what we meant by "open relay", but it was hopeless. So the
user was forced to choose between turing off spam blocks and dealing
with the spam, or not being able to get mail from the one person on the
net she cared about getting mail from. Now, this is just one example.
Overall, I think our spam filtering here has been very effective,
blocking large numbers of spams with very few false positives. But these
situations can and do happen despite our best efforts.

Frankly, I can't think of any way to block spam that doesn't also risk
losing at least a small amount of legitimate mail too. On the other
hand, we can't not take any measures to block spam. We've had some users
here (including me) who were getting hundreds of spams a day prior to
the installing of DNS-based blacklisting and SpamAssassin. It was
getting to the point where it was difficult to use e-mail for its
legitimate purposes due to the volume of spam. So what do we do? I'm all
for looking for better answers, but I'm not convinced that there can
ever be an answer that is 100% perfect at blocking spam and only spam.
And I can guarantee that anti-spam legislation can and will be used to
control things other than spam that the government doesn't like, so I
don't think there is a good legal answer either. The last thing we need
is getting lawyers, politicians and bureaucrats involved. Those are the
same people who brought us the DMCA. And since most spam crosses
international borders, it's not clear how effective a law can be anyway.


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