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Hospital radio station struggles with Yahoo! email 'blockade'

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A small UK-based hospital radio station has fallen foul of the overzealous spam-blocking policies of internet giant Yahoo!.

Reg reader Brian Purvis looks after the IT needs of Radio Haslar, a hospital radio station that (as so many in the UK) operates as a charity. Over the last few weeks email messages sent to either btinternet.com, yahoo.co.uk or yahoo.com addresses have been delivered up to 24 hours late or, in most cases, not at all.

Error messages typically come in the format (below):

<<< 421 Message from (78.32.***.***) temporarily deferred - 4.16.50. Please refer to http://help.yahoo.com/help/us/mail/defer/defer-06.html

The URL included in the messages suggests that a domain is being blocked on suspicion of sending out spam to Yahoo! addresses or as a result of complaints, an inference Purvis resents.

"The mail server for radiohaslar.co.uk is a private, closed relay and very heavily locked down to prevent unauthorised access by spammers, so I know that our servers are not being abused," Purvis told us. "In addition to this we operate a zero tolerance to spam both incoming and outgoing, so what Yahoo are saying is simply not true. The only email we send to these address are to those who are members of our station."

Others have reported similar problems getting legitimate emails across to Yahoo! since October last year. Purvis said Radio Haslar's problems only kicked in a month or so ago.

We contacted Yahoo! in the hopes of shedding some light on the matter. It responded with a statement saying its "privacy policies" prevented it from "sharing information about user accounts with third parties", an assertion that would doubtless interest Chinese dissidents sent to jail on evidence supplied to the Chinese authorities by Yahoo!. Yahoo! went on:

While our privacy policy prohibits us from sharing information about user accounts with third parties, we can tell you that we've asked our email delivery team to investigate the points your reader raises and follow up directly with Hospital Radio Haslar.

Yahoo! Mail treats email delivery as a top priority and it's important to Yahoo! to ensure email users are receiving the messages they want and value. For your reference, Yahoo! Mail provides best practice guidelines for Bulk Mail senders at http://help.yahoo.com/l/uk/yahoo/mail/postmaster/ including a customer care form for those needing additional help with e-mail delivery.

Yahoo! has kept its promise and is in touch with Radio Haslar. Unfortunately, its approach is more than a little bureaucratic. Purvis is being asked to respond to no fewer than 17 points included in a lengthy form.

Meanwhile Radio Haslar is still having trouble getting email through to its members. "Yahoo say that a resend should let them through, but in reality it is taking resends up to 24 hours," Purvis told El Reg. He added that the email response he received from Yahoo!, sent only after El Reg took an interest in the story, is "very long-winded and I feel too complicated for a small voluntary organisation like ours". ®

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