by Mike Masnick

Verizon Discovers The Cost Of Being Too Aggressive In Blocking Spam

from the what,-you-wanted-to-email-someone-in-Europe? dept

In late 2004 Verizon got fed up with dealing with spam for its DSL customers, and implemented a massive blocklist, that seemed to block a ton of email from outside the country -- with no way to get around the list. People who used their Verizon email address to communicate with colleagues in Europe, for example, suddenly were unable to do so. It was surprising that an ISP as large as Verizon would go with such an unsophisticated anti-spam solution -- and not have any way around it (their official response when informed of complaints was that people should use make a phone call if it was really important, rather than relying on email). Enough people were annoyed that a law firm jumped on the opportunity and put together a class action suit. The two sides have agreed to a basic settlement, so that Verizon DSL customers could be entitled to a one-time payout of $49 for the inconvenience. The lawyers, on the other hand, would walk away with $1.4 million. Seems like quite a windfall for the law firm, though this could make other ISPs a bit more careful in going overboard in their spam filtering. Brian McWilliams, who posted this news, thinks its unfair to blame the ISPs for simply trying to block spam -- but it's really a question of expectations. Most of all, people expect to be able to get their legitimate emails -- and being too aggressive on blocking, without a way to account for errors is clearly going beyond what most people's expectations are for the service. The fear is that this payout causes other ISPs to be too timid in fighting spam -- but, as long as they make sure there's a way around the filter, it seems like they should be fine.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 1:23pm


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Andrew Schmitt, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 1:52pm

    US needs to take a leadership role

    Condi Rice did an excellent job with her impassioned plea to keep US leadership of ICANN.

    If we are going to demand hegemony in the leadership of the internet it's time to do something useful with it. There are multiple ways to stop intl spam - it's time to implement one at a national level, and countries that don't play by those rules get pulled from ICANN. Period.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    drkkgt, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 2:00pm


    Seems like ATT hasn't gotten the message. Anyone know how to get off their list?

    I've tried support, which bounces me to a few different departments before I just get disconnected. My rep (since we are an ATT phone and DSL customer) can't seem to find anything about it, and thier web site doesn't do much either.

    One person told me to contact my email provider but I told him the server beside me didn't know what to do either.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Rich, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 2:43pm

    ISP Mail

    Why even use your ISP's e-mail service? I know this wouldn't solve all problems, but find a good free e-mail service like GMail and use it instead.

    Free e-mail services almost never block mail, they just put it in your junk/bulk/spam boxes. Also, they don't block from people on your contact list. Also, you won't have to change your e-mail if you want to switch ISPs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    nate k, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 2:48pm


    people need to block their own damn spam.. I'd be pissed if my provider started blocking messages from getting to me, hell, sometimes my own spam filters take crap out that I dont want it to, but atleast I can fix that. Glad I dont have to deal with it since I've had my own domain names for years now and my providers dont block anything.

    I get real sick of this "We're going to treat all of our customers like they are stupid" mentality that some ISPs have, if people cant protect their computer screw them, don't screw the guys who know what's going on by blocking the stuff they want.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    John Scott, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 2:55pm

    Spam blocking

    Spam blocking is not a solution. But for most ISP`s its a way of keeping their mail servers from becoming jammed with SPAM (Not the meat product).
    I personally think the user should be able to make a choice on how strong the filter should be for his or her needs. If this is not possible then let the user purchase/download anti spamware and let the mail flow free through the ISP.
    ISP`s think it is important to offer these types of services. But it is very hard to please everyone. I don`t ask my mail carrier to go through my mail and throw away any mail he/she thinks is junk then take him to court when he throws something away I wanted. Com`On do it yourself, don`t rely on someone else to do your dirty work. Find a way yourself to manage your own email!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Peter Blaise Monahon (profile), Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 3:01pm

    Everyone wants to play Monopoly and be the next Mi


    The problem was monopoly practices - Verizon using the power of their multiple communication services to force their customers to use Verizon's more expensive phone lines instead of their already paid for, less expensive Verizon email. Ever try to attach a photo or PDF to a phone call, or cc: multiple recipients in a phone call? What a hoax, Verizon, nice spin on why they shut off cheap "long distance" emails in favor of comparatively expensive phone calls! Hahahahah. I almost believe them. Almost.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    ZOMG CENSORED, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 3:15pm

    Gotta love helping the stupid

    Verizon steps in, helps people who were too inept to block the spam themselves, and now they get slammed for being idiots for blocking an entire outside world with no way to get around it. Both sides were immensely stupid and both sides paid the price for it. The people get, essentially, nothing, and Verizon gets a chunk of change taken from them, all is well.

    People need to learn how to use a saw before they operate it, those that don't end up in the hospital. The internet should be the same way, if you can't use it, you get shocked with 20,000 Volts :D

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Jeff, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 3:34pm

    What's with the dig at attorneys on this?

    It seems like a perfectly legitimate class action. Lots of people harmed - each get what they (via class rep and attorney) and Verizon agree is 'owed' them. If there are only 100,000 members of the class, that's $4.5 mil to the class members. If any individual member of the class disagrees they can opt out. Meanwhile, it seems like the attorney gets the 'windfall' - but the attorney's done all the work and fronted all the bills. (for those that don't know, it is common practice for attorneys to pay the costs of class actions because often it is not possible or practical for the class rep to front that entire bill). And he (they) are just getting their fee for their services (contingency at 30%). If the class action had failed the law firm would have been out tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees and time. It's a simple risk/reward and no different from any other contingency fee arrangement.

    I'm disappointed that you guys would sink to simple lawyer bashing for easy kicks when you've shown a moderate legal sophistication on these issues in the past. I can understand the cynicism, but at least provide a basis if you think it's justified. Rather than just "oh look another class action where the lawyer's the only one getting rich."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 3:52pm

    I agree with Jeff

    What is important is to teach companies like Verizon to not lower the value of the service which the customer paid for. Attorneys serve an important public need and it is long past time that the public respects attorneys for the good they do. It is far better than trial by combat.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    RWLib3, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 3:56pm


    Comcast did the same basic thing to us, except it was only to accounts that we were blocked....and here's the kicker.... COMCAST IS OUR ISP!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    kerrcobra, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 4:35pm

    trial by combat

    Lawyers are useless, trial by combat would be so much better and more effective.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    wild bill, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 5:50pm

    Let them block the spam

    Whitelist, Whitelist, Whitelist, Whitelist, Whitelist.....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Chris, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 5:54pm

    This is all in good intentions by Verizon. You guys talk about them like they are tyrants for blocking everything. Atleast they are taking some action to block spam. It may of been a lil too extreme but I would prefer that because I dont recieve email from any other countries and if I did it would come from either yahoo or hotmail. I have both Yahoo and Hotmail accounts and have had them for about 10 years but now I atleast 200 spam emails a Day because so many companies that advertise has my email address. But i cant just change and get a new email because i been using this emails for so long and everyone knows them. But i may use my Verizon email I like the idea no spam. I get emails in other languages that i cant even read.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 6:22pm

    Re: spam

    i hate to brak it to you nate it but alot of internet are fucking stupid, its a fck you should get used to if you use it....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    WhoNu, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 6:58pm


    Hey, cut it out. I have three CDs and a folder on my computer named Norp...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Transit60, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 8:11pm


    Does everyone who comments here type really fast, or do these typo's come from not having spell-check to rely on?

    Anyway, as for spam; we're all supposed to be adults, so we should handle it ourselves.

    As for lawyers; a necessary evil, but still an evil.
    Exhibt one, a joke:

    2 lawyers jump off of a 10 story building...which one lands first?

    Answer- who cares :-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    markbnj, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 8:24pm

    Re: Lawyers and 30%

    OK Jeff. Wanna come take on a case? Me against City hall here in Central NJ. I lost 300Grand because the F#$# idiot who runs the town put me out of business by harassing me left and right, and then bragged about it in public.
    I figure I could show how my business plans might have netted me at least 3 mil, so we may get close to that if you win.

    and I'll give you 50% if you take the case. comment to me at blog, or email markbnj at excite dot com

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Alex, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 8:28pm


    I have Bellsouth as my ISP, and they too block spam. It is very difficult to please everyone, those who don't like spam at all, and others who want to control their spam filter. I prefer to filter spam myself and make sure I receive all the emails I expect. I agree with not using your ISP email.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Mischa, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 8:47pm

    Re: Typos

    I spend all day long typing on a regular keyboard at work and then come home to my laptop keyboard, which is half the length, and constantly hit the wrong keys.

    Does that qualify as too fast?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Michael, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 9:59pm

    RE: Good Intentions vs Tyranny

    There seems to be a natural tendency to see these types of actions as either benevolence on the part of a caring company or tyranny on the part of an evil company. In reality, they tend to be just plain old business decissions made by some manager who is trying to make it through the week. In this case, based on the posted story, it would appear that the reason for the excessive spam filteration was because they were getting too many support calls. I doubt that they suddenly thought, "Hey, why don't we do something swell for our customers and try to block ALL of their spam." On the other hand, I don't think the said to themselves, "Ha Ha! We'll show those SOBs who keep complaining about the spam they keep getting because they click on every damn banner ad they see -- We'll block ALL their foreign email!" No, I think they just looked at their internal support stats and realized that a large percentage of calls were due to spam and decided that it would make their lives easier if they blocked more of it. Of course the problem with that is that they are in the business of providing internet ACCESS and, thus, dealing with spam related support calls is part of their CORE BUSINESS. Simply deciding to reduce that access (w/o marketing their services in an "internet-lite" sort of fashion a la AOL) is not really an option for them.

    Think of it this way, if you went to a hamburger joint and found out that they didn't have ketchup -- not because they thought its sodium levels were too high (benevolence) or because they liked watching their customers choke down dry burgers and didn't like ketchup themselves (tyrannical) -- but because it was difficult to keep the bottles full and their food servers didn't like to hassle with them before the left for the night, you'd probably feel slighted and may not choose to go back there again. The bottom line is: if you own a burger joint, you have to deal with the ketchup bottles or find another way to dispense ketchup -- you can't just choose to not offer it.

    I believe the 21st Century is becoming the Age of Lowered Expectations (just like the SNL routine). Everywhere you go, someone or some company is offering us less than what we want and think we deserve, but just enough to make do, so we suck it up and lower our expectations to meet their offerings. Soon, we stop expecting/wanting as much so that we aren't constantly disappointed. Consequently, we end up with retail counter help that can't make change and insist on finishing their personal conversations with co-workers before helping us; school systems that don't really teach our children to reason and develop their personal skills but will help them to pass mandated tests which keep the school's funding from drying up; and politicians who make us feel fearful and put-upon so that we will vote for them to "protect" us rather than inspiring us to share in their vision to build a better future (e.g. FDR's New Deal or JFK's Space Program). Everywhere you look, you're getting less out of life and accepting it as the best you can do.

    In the end, you'll find that most companies are just trying to make as much money as possible while expending as few resources as possible -- it's the true nature of capitalism. If consumers don't insist on higher quality and better standards, quality and standards will certainly slip to the lowest acceptable level. We are, in effect, exchanging the promise of a better tomorrow for the simplicity of a standardized mediocrity which costs less support and is far less enjoyable and inspiring. Welcome to the Age of Lowered Expectations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Andrew Strasser, Apr 4th, 2006 @ 2:15am

    If I miss a job offer from Germany,

    Due to my ISP filtering it. I think I'd probably lose more than a little patience with my ISP.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    ron angel, Apr 6th, 2006 @ 9:16am

    email blocking

    The bottom line is If the service provider does not do
    things as you the customer wants them to Change
    service provider at end of contract, & use free web based email. This goes for any company you are paying for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Kym, Apr 24th, 2006 @ 5:12am

    Verizon Spam Blocking - Still Idiots

    They are still idiots and they got taken to court and deserve it and still have not learnt.

    In the last month, they have blocked spam from my partnering company, my own dedicated server and my host helpdesk.

    The scary thing is are they blocking emails from potential clients? Given how little mail I have had in the last 3 days - probably.

    That is not stupid?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Gene Thomas, May 1st, 2006 @ 11:47am

    Spam filter full block

    This is the first round of the internet and ISP providers in trying to get ANYTHING that looks like a way for them to control THIER network to thier advantage. he providers do not want net-neutrality.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    JB, May 6th, 2006 @ 7:04am

    Verizon also blocking US emails

    I decided after I didn't receive some confirmation emails in my verizon email that I would try using my gmail addy. Sure enough, I got the confirmations in gmail. I then contacted verizon and they gave me the line about filtering other countries email. When I stated that they were all US companies, the only thing they could tell me to do was to add them to the verizon whitelist. This is a crock. You may have to continue to add the same domain because it may only allow it once. I am now using my gmail all the time. Thanks to verizon, I may have missed some very important emails.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Anonymous, May 14th, 2006 @ 11:12am

    I never dreamed!

    We helped a neighbor switch to Verizon DLS from dialup, for the reliable and fast connection. She has many friends in Europe and, after talking to one of them, discovered that email that had been sent to her never arrived nor did it bounce to the sender in Luxembourg. Luxembourg?!? We searched the Verizon site and found nothing about the European blocks.

    We called Verizon tech support yesterday and were told that Verizon is not blocking email from Europe, that their spam-blocking tool has been offline for over a month. (Now, I know why they gave me that time frame.)

    I had the neighbor ask friends in Europe to send her an email and cc me at three accounts: my Verizon address, my domain on a Web host, and gmail. Two sent, about 10 hours ago from .fr and 6 hours ago from .nl. Email arrived at my Web host and at gmail. Nothing on Verizon.... No blocks from Europe? Right.

    I never dreamed that Verizon would have such a draconian blocking policy. Now, I feel awful for recommending Verizon to our neighbor! She's retired and just wants to keep in touch with friends and family around the world.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Kevin, Jun 30th, 2006 @ 12:38pm

    Verizon blocks more than just countries

    I work for a company (here in the U.S.!) that has been blocked by Verizon for the past 2 years.

    We have been blocked before by several different isp's but usually after submitting their "white-list" form that most isp's have, the block is lifted.

    Not Verizon though!... we have called (India) repeatedly, sent emails to their so called "" and sent countless white-list forms....Nothing is heard back except, your not blocked. And we hear that if we are lucky to even get a response.

    Unless we start demanding that our clients that have Verizon accounts call them to see why they can't get mail from us......
    Its dam near impossible to get de-listed w/ Verizon, is immposible to get de-listed!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    PG, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 11:56am


    I can believe this story, as my Verizon account has had numerous problems with emails. I recently found that when I try to send emails to my hotmail account from my Verizon account, it does not go through, and no undeliverable message comes back either. I checked the hotmail settings, which allow the Verizon emails, and they were fine, and I can send emails from hotmail to Verizon, but no one can explain why the email does not go through. When I contacted Verizon, a rep told me to "go back to aol."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Marie Harrington, Dec 21st, 2006 @ 3:47pm

    iSearch on password helpVerizon blocking email fro

    Something is blocking my passwords on some of my sites for hardware and windows updates at times and epson printer at times and Real player and Rhapsody. I t5hink it may be google as i disable norton's and the email is still blocked. not sure, though.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Carol Gefen, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 2:09pm

    Verizon Spam Block

    Here we are in 2007, and my husband and i are being raked over the coals by a company which he sells for because Verizon is blocking their emails to us.
    My husband who is self employed, could lose his job from this. Filing a complaint with white pages does not work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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