Earlier this year, we had a problem where an AOL user who had signed up for our daily email (which requires a clear approval process that confirms the user wants the email) started marking each daily email as spam -- which generates a complaint to AOL. AOL then started sending complaints to our ISP, and threatening to block all email to AOL users. This actually started happening again last week, leading us to send an email to all the AOL users on our list, telling them we were cutting them off unless they specifically sent in an email saying they wanted to remain on the list. It's ridiculous, indeed, but it raises some of the questions about the various spam blackhole lists that so many ISPs rely on these days. Antispam firm Postini is discovering the same thing, as they had their IP address placed on a blackhole list as well. The details of why are a bit sketchy, and some suggest that they were involved in borderline practices, mailing people who did give them contact information, but didn't really request marketing emails. However, it has re-opened the old debate about how effective these blackhole lists are -- especially with the somewhat arbitrary nature in which sites get on the lists. It's very much a "shoot first, ask questions later" type of deal. Better spam filtering is important (and is important to all of our in-boxes), and if you read Techdirt, you should be aware of how little patience we have with anyone who does anything spam-like. However, these blackhole lists are relied upon by many ISPs who often don't realize just how arbitrarily they're created.
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