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closeLook how old this is!
I post at SearchCommander.com now, and this post was published 11 years 4 months 26 days ago. This industry changes FAST, so blindly following the advice here *may not* be a good idea! If you're at all unsure, feel free to hit me up on Twitter and ask.

Does your business send e-mail to your customers? How about emailing invoices or monthly statements?

Do you ever communicate with them to let them know about issues with their orders, or changes to their account?

Do you ever send them a newsletter, even one that they may have double-verified with an “opt in” on your end?

If you do, then you should be aware that there is a movement afoot to stop delivery of ANY commercial e-mail, unless the end user specifically says that they want to receive it by “whitelisting” you in THEIR control panel.

The company is Linux Magic, operated by Wizard Tower Technoservices, and a few ISP’s have made the the unfortunate decision to use them in their efforts to prevent spam from arriving in user mailboxes.

In theory this may be fine, but I believe that most end-users just are not yet savvy enough to understand how to do this, and your e-mail to them, from newsletters, to invoices, and even replies to email they sent or CC’d you in the first place will go undelivered, if this company has their way.

They operate several other anti-spam technology sites, including mipspace.com, magicmail.linuxmagic.com, magicspam.com, cityemail.ca, spamrats.com and there are likely others as well, since they’re growing.

spam-fascists

There aren’t that many complaints about them out there, in my opinion, because they’re not all that big yet. But there are a growing number of ticked off people, and I predict that number will continue to grow as long as they retain their current definition of what mail should be blocked.

I dislike unsolicited e-mail as much as the next guy, and I’m happy that drastic steps are being taken all over the web to prevent people from becoming buried in unwanted e-mail.

However, this blocking of users mail threatens the very nature of e-mail communication, without the knowledge of the end user – i.e. the customers of the ISP’s that hire these email fascists.

Oh sure, the “knowledge” is buried in some online document or user agreement, but remember, we’re dealing with end users here. Can they really be expected to whitelist everyone they send mail to manually?

A brief education
Most Internet service providers and Web hosts subscribe to what are called “blacklists“, and when spam gets identified or reported, various IP addresses of the offending mail servers get added to these lists.

When that happens, end users of the subscribing ISP’s will not able to receive mail from any business or contact that may be using one of those blacklisted mail servers.

This “blacklisting” generally results in a bounced email message being sent back to the sender, with a message explaining why the mail was not delivered, and with links to follow to the blacklist removal process, in the event their IT department can fix something on their end.

Once that takes place, and a mail server IP has been added to a spam blacklist, there is always a remedy for removing them from the list in a timely fashion, assuming that you’re not really a spammer.

Apparently using “known spammer blacklists” don’t seem to be enough for some ISPs, and they are turning to other companies to help minimize their users unwanted e-mail, like Wizard Tower TechnoServices Ltd., and they have their own set of rules, that ISPs should be very wary of.

Specific History
This story begins with a bounced e-mail message that I sent to a client, where I CC’d about 4 people, including his newly hired design firm. The message to the design firm bounced back to me with this error:

<HYPERLINK “mailto:[email protected][email protected]>:
12.345.678.9 does not like recipient.
Remote host said: 550-Your message was rejected by this user and was not delivered.
550-Reason: This system uses BMS to check your IP address reputation, and
was rejected by the user 550-Protection provided by: MagicMail version
1.1.1 (http://magicmail.linuxmagic.com) 550
For more information, please visit the URL:
550- http://www.linuxmagic.com/power_of_ip_reputation.html 550 or contact your ISP or mail server operator. Giving up on 12.345.678.9

Having never heard of “BMS” and knowing that our IP addresses are totally clean and not on any spam blacklists, I attempted to visit the URL they provided, and got a 404 error page not found. Frustrated, I looked up the company contact info at their site and sent them an e-mail –

Dear Linux Magic,

I presume you were hired by the web host or domain owner of REMOVEDDOMAIN.com, and I’m unable to communicate with my client’s key web developer on a joint project –
My sending IP at office is 76.115.19.29 and my outgoing mail server is mail2.pdxtc.com (208.70.160.20)

Visiting your link “for more information” is bad, and my mail server IP is clean here – http://www.mxtoolbox.com/blacklists.aspx

Whatever the problem is, we need to resolve please.

Scott Hendison

Three full days later, this is the reply I get –

Hello,

Could you please forward this information off to the network administrators at the location where the email is being sent? They should be able to assist
you with any issues you are having sending to their mail server.

Thank you.

— Spam Auditor —

That was it!

  • There was no mention of why we might be blocked
  • No mention of the fact that their link “for more information” is bad
  • No explanation whatsoever as to who they are
  • No information about how to fill out a removal request, where they might be located, or what it is that they even do.

At this point I simply forwarded their e-mail reply to my client, asked him to forward it to his developer, and thought no more of it, because I knew that we were clean on the spam blacklists, and the fact was, this was really their problem, not mine. leFor some reason his Internet service provider would not allow him to get my e-mail.

A few days later one of our web hosting customers started getting identical bounce messages from one of his vendors and he submitted a support ticket to us.

Now, since it was no longer affecting just me, our server administrator attempted to pursue the problem again. He was more patient than I was, and actually dug in their website to the point of finding a form to submit in an attempt to get our mail servers off their “bad list”.

Two days later, when he finally did receive their response declining his request for removal, he had to phone them, and he claims he was told the following information over the phone:

“We will not remove your IP , because you are allowing commercial marketing e-mails to be sent. We define a ‘commercial marketing company’ as any company who sends out bulk emails whether solicited or unsolicited. This would include companies sending out a monthly newsletter or even a billing statement notification to existing clients.”

My admin then answered our hosting clients support ticket, saying there is nothing we can do to get this IP removed from their database and they have declined the removal.

At this point I decided to phone them because we are not spammers, we don’t allow unsolicited email, and we are not on any of the “real” spam company blacklists.

I phoned Wizard Tower Technoservices the first thing in the morning, and was told by someone named Sean that I would get a phone call as soon as manager arrived.

Four and a half hours later I phoned back, speaking to Ryan this time, who attempted to help me, but ultimately said I would have to talk to Michael, and he would have him call me right away as soon as he was back.

A couple of hours later, just before 5pm, I phoned back and was lucky enough to have Michael answer the phone, where I attempted to pitch my case.

Michael held the company line that “We do not discuss this over the phone please fill out our form”, while he attempted to educate me on the fact that they were not really a “spam blocking service”, and that being on their list was not necessarily saying we were spammers, just that we had frequently allowed commercial marketing to take place. He claimed that “people have a right to not accept commercial email” and we were “allowing it”.

I tried to challenge this supposed fact by pointing out that no, we do not allow our users to send unsolicited e-mail, and that any user that did so was immediately removed from our hosting platform. In other words, we have a zero tolerance for spammers, and we do not allow it.

At that point our conversation grew heated, with him insisting that we were “commercial marketers”, yet offering no proof or citing any complaints, and then he went back to his standard line of “fill out the form” on our site and they’ll take a look.

I filled out the form –

This is a second removal request, being made after speaking with Sean this morning, with Ryan mid-day, and finally with Michael Peddemors, after phoning just now.

“LinuxMagic DOES NOT IN ANY WAY choose which addresses should be blacklisted or not” so I’m asking you again, why we’re on this list? I’m submitting again because Michael said that this was the only way to investigate.

My server admin tells me that the first removal request was declined. These IP addresses – 208.70.160.19, 208,70.160.20 and 208.70.160.40 (and likely others in our range) are on your blocking list.

My admin claims that you told him that we were “allowing e-mail marketing” from our servers, and not necessarily that we were spammers. He says you told him “email marketing’ technically could include activities such as regular monthly billing and opt in newsletters or subscriptions.

We are a web hosting company with hundreds of customers. We do not allow bulk e-mail to be sent, and any hosting customers that does partake in such activities are in violation of our terms of service, and quickly become ex-customers.

Yes I understand that you’re “not a spam blacklist”, and that you are only maintaining a list of IP addresses that allow e-mail marketing but I need clarification please.

Is it really true that monthly billing statements qualify as e-mail marketing?
If that’s the case, then I guess we might be “guilty” as charged, but I would like to know exactly on what grounds we were added to your poor IP reputation list.

Thank you for a prompt response,
Scott Hendison

Still, nothing happened, and I got no response from them.

Over a week went by before I got another bounce, so I filled out the form again. – Now keep in mind this is the third time we filled out the form, and we’ve had multiple phone calls with them trying to convince them that we’re not spammers.

If you’re going to block a company, I believe you owe it to them to tell them why, and respond to requests like this in a timely manner.

I’m writing yet AGAIN, requesting information on WHY our IP addresses [123.456.789.0 ] and likely others in our range are on your blocking list.

I’m also looking for verification of what my admin claims that you told him.

1. We were “allowing e-mail marketing” from our servers, and not necessarily that we were spammers.
2. He says you told him “email marketing’ technically could include activities such as regular monthly billing and opt in newsletters or subscriptions.

I’ve phoned three separate times, finally speaking to Michael Peddemors nearly two weeks ago, who told me to submit the form, which I’ve done.

Your information claims that “LinuxMagic DOES NOT IN ANY WAY choose which addresses should be blacklisted or not” so I’m asking you again, why we’re on this list? What legitimate blacklist has provided our IP addresses?

The world’s largest reference list here shows none –
http://www.mxtoolbox.com/blacklists.aspx

Please give me the professional courtesy of a response this time.

Scott Hendison

Within 12 hours, here’s the response I got back –

Scott, as previously commented on. MIPSPACE is an IP reputation service that can be used by email administrators and end users to control email delivery.

It can be used to block, score, filter or otherwise affect mail delivery based by various technologies, including some LinuxMagic technologies.

Email marketing reputation is based on historical patterns of email marketing.

It does not make any distinction on the type of email marketing, except that occasionally double opt-in lists may receive exemptions.

MipSpace does occasionally review it’s rating based on end users reports. We do not normally change our reputation rating based on senders complaints.

Our ratings are no different than movie ratings, and not everyone may agree with our assessments, however that does not preclude us from making the assessment.

Those that choose to use MipSpace reputation lists are aware of this, and we have had very few complaints from those using the service.

Although we do realize this may affect your ability to send email to certain individuals if they use this rating system, the rights of the owners of the mailboxes takes precedence.

So yes, this has nothing to do with traditional forms of ‘spamming’. It is for people who prefer not to get any email marketing, no matter in what form.

Those that use this service usually have the ability to ‘whitelist’ any specific emails they wish to get, so if there is something they really want, they know they can do that.

And yes, we do not have the ability to verify the opt-in policies of companies, (just as you may have difficulties verifying the opt-in policies of your customers sending through your services), so occasionally opt-in email marketing companies will also get included, especially when those companies email marketing is objected to by the individuals who end up receiving the emails.

Often, the philosophy of opt-in may differ from the email marketer and the recipient; so called opt-in has reached such levels that more and more people are choosing methods such as blocking companies with a reputation of historically sending email marketing, and then whitelisting any addresses from those locations that they specifically want to receive email from.

Until such a time as these people complain that it is stopping a company that never sends email marketing, or it requires an excessive amount of exemptions, we have no motivation to change our rating.

If you have a case of a single IP in your range belonging to different customers with different policies on email marketing, you can consider IP address delegation via whois, and then we can base our reputation on those person’s activities separately, as operators of their own IP address space.

And as to your other references regarding LinuxMagic, the quote is correct.

ISP’s and end users choose the behavior of how the MIPSPACE rankings are used. LinuxMagic does make the list available in the product free of charge for those people to use.

This will be our final correspondence on this issue. As mentioned, herein, and on the website. We do NOT respond to removal requests from email senders, and there is no evidence to indicate this rating was accidental.

And this response goes far above and beyond our responsibilities in this matter, especially given the history of several abusive phone calls to our offices and staff.

However, if you decide at some future point to only permit email marketing from certain IP ranges, and other ranges are designated differently we may consider rating each IP address range separately, but again this will usually be instigated by customers who are the receivers, and not the senders.

— MipSpace Review Officer —

*****

Oh I see, so now I’m abusive because I was told someone would call me back immediately, and they blew me off? I’m abusive because I had to call back two more times before I could talk to someone (Michael) who was a pompous jackass on the phone and refused to help me unless I filled out the form yet again?

Does their final response above site any actual complaints? No.

Does it tell me how we got on that list in the first place? No.

It simply says that we are on the list, they’re not going to remove us, and they verified that yes, even e-mail billing invoices and double opt in newsletter subscriptions count against us, and we are on their “bad list”.

Their “service” is not a spam blacklist, it’s just a list of domains that in their determination, for which they do not share the methodology, are “known to allow commercial e-mail solicitation”, and that does include sending out company invoices or newsletters that their customers have subscribed to.

Their amazing technology isn’t even smart enough to automatically whitelist addresses to whom their clients send or CC email directly! If the white list were updated when the end user sends or CC’s mail to a domain, then there might be SOME hope here, but there’s not.

I’m strongly urging any Internet service provider to consider carefully the ramifications of using Linux Magic, or any Wizard Tower Technoservices company to filter their users mail.

I’m also strongly urging anyone with expected email mysteriously not arriving to ask their ISP if they use this company, and if they do… then dump ’em.

Perhaps their technology is excellent, I’m not really sure, and I don’t really care. The point is, that they are uncooperative jerks, and the fact that they offer no remedy at all for businesses who feel unfairly blocked, nor do they tell them why we’re blocked in the first place, is completely unacceptable.

Since they seem to be completely unregulated by any state, federal or other agency, they are free to wreak all the havoc they wish by indiscriminately blocking mail however they want, and I suspect that some of the ISP’s that are actually using them don’t even realize it.

In short, any ISP using them may have a lot of angry users on their hands…

Be warned.

P.S. – I’m sorry that I seem to have this much free time to write stuff like this.  I don’t really, but this “email fascism” is BEYOND ridiculous and that’s why I was angry enough to write this… manifesto.

P.P.S. – I seldom specifically ask in posts for Diggs, Stumbles, or any social networking sharing, but I’m asking now…

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