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The Register libeled by huge US telco

Yo! Extra-territorial litigation here we come!

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A serious point here. Under UK law, if someone publishes a damaging untruth about you, that is libel, and actionable. If someone says similar about you, that is slander. So hello, Bell Atlantic, and do you feel lucky? The Register's daily update service gets some damn weird stuff in its admin mailbox, but we especially liked one we got last Friday from something called msweep@bigyellow.com. "Subject: A message from reg@lettice.demon.co.uk contained spammed material."

This is slightly illiterate, but it still looks like libel to us. BigYellow is a service operated by Bell Atlantic Electronic Commerce Inc., and we do indeed seem to have a hapless would-be reader of The Register Daily Update with an email @bigyellow.com. We'll mail him separately, avoiding swear words, to let him know why he's not getting the service.

The text of the message from msweep@bigyellow.com tells us the "message was blocked by the server and will not be delivered to the recipient." It helpfully attaches a log file so we can figure out why this happened. First of all, it checks us for viruses, and hearteningly we find we haven't got any. Not at least those known by Sophos up to 6 March, which considering the message was dealt with on 31 March, is maybe a little bit out of date for a totally battle-ready system. But then it gets bad.

Get a load of this: 14:14:39.32 (MSW:002) Validator 'NTsweepDLL' returned "SUCCESS" 14:14:39.34 (LEX:003) Found phrase Value 24, Text "secrets " 14:14:39.34 (LEX:003) Found phrase Value 24, Text "secrets " 14:14:39.34 (LEX:003) Found phrase Value 50, Text "sex " 14:14:39.34 (LEX:003) Found phrase Value 5, Text "free " 14:14:39.35 (LEX:003) Found phrase Value 5, Text "FREE " 14:14:39.37 (LEX:003) Total Value = 108, Loading = 1, result = "HaveSpam" 14:14:39.37 (MSW:002) Validator 'SpamList' returned "HaveSpam"

It's actually a little disappointing that the DecencyBot only found these terms in The Reg unacceptable, but looking on the bright side, it was only parsing the file containing the headlines from Friday's issue, so it didn't get a chance to check out the real smut inside. But one could wonder why words like "secrets" and "free" are troublesome - sinister or what? And that "HaveSpam" is clearly libel.

Maybe somebody should tell BigYellow's corporate lawyers about what BigYellow's techies are putting into BigYellow's automated messages, before somebody sues... Considering BigYellow's strenuous efforts to protect its users, we were amused in an ironic sort of way to check out one of the services BigYellow offers. It's got one of those nice privacy policies, but it allows you to do phone number, address and email searches for people. And when it kicks them up, it adds nice little details like a map of the town they live in, nearby airports, auto rental companies, hotels... We were almost tempted to "Search other categories" for gun-shops. ®

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