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All's not fair in love and email abuse

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It may seem incredible, but those companies set up to prevent the abuse of modern communications (namely, spam) don't seem to be above a bit of active sabotage. How come? All down to money, sadly.

The ongoing war between ORBS, Above.net and MAPS has come to light thanks to Alan Cox's widely read diary (for those that don't know, Alan Cox is a Linux guru, complete with foaming, crazed groupies). Both ORBS and MAPS offer a screening service that cuts out unwanted and unsolicited mail. Above.net is an ISP with two interesting characteristics: one, it is included on ORBS' blacklist of open-relays (which allows spammers to disguise themselves); two, its head, Paul Vixie, runs both Above.net and MAPS.

Alan Cox's entry for 17 July reads: "Under repeated alleged attacks from Paul Vixie's above.net, ORBS has shut down its services - Paul Vixie who just happens to own MAPS which just happens to have ORBS as a notional competitor were he to go commercial, anyone taking bets he does? Due to the amount of spam I get without ORBS filtering, I'm going to be implementing draconian filtering. Basically if you aren't someone who regularly mails me - tough you'll probably never get a reply now."

So what we seem to have here is an ISP, with a vested interest in an anti-spam company planning to go commerical, having a go at another, non-commercial anti-spam company. Looks very messy to us. What's more, it's not terribly hard to see what Above.net is up to. According to observers, it's not even just blocking ORBS packets (presumably to search for a mention of Above.net in its blacklist), it is actually actively counteracting ORBS traffic. This is not a good way of getting the Net community on your side, but then if the idea is to put ORBS out of business, it is having the desired effect.

We deplore blocking terrorism, and in this case, since it isn't even a commercial battle, these tactics would seem very inappropriate. If Above.net is really behind this, we've no doubt the full, hidden force of the Internet will be brought to bear. ®

Links

ORBS' accusations in full
Evidence of MAPS' intention to go commercial

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Email: spammers, hoaxers, workers, watchers

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