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May 5, 2004

Curiouser and curiouser - Scott Richter RejectedRealBig by Ironport's Bonded Sender Program

Posted 1 day, 13 hours ago on May 5, 2004
From the "things which make you go hmmmm...." department, it turns out that Scott "I am a legitimate businessman who is also the King of Spam" Richter, who is suing Ironport Systems over their listing of his IP addresses in their SpamCop anti-spam database, also applied to participate in Ironport's Bonded Sender Program, which was today announced as being implemented by Microsoft, and was roundly rejected. This reported by InformationWeek.

Richter is almost certainly in a position to provide whatever bond Ironport may demand to participate in their Bonded Sender Program, so their rejection of his request to participate is unlikely to be a case of "he wouldn't pay the size of the bond we deemed necessary for someone with his spamming history."

This adds an interesting dimension to Richter's lawsuit against Ironport, as he may be able to allege that Ironport is functioning as a gatekeeper to the Internet - or certainly, given Microsoft's announcement today, to a substantial portion of it. Not only are they facilitating the blocking of his email (and most likely rightly so), but they won't give him any remedy for the email which he is prepared to bond to prove it is legitimate and wanted. Furthermore, he can claim that even if he wants to go completely legitimate, he is being kept from going legitimate, because he is being prohibited from participating in programs which would allow him to rehabilitate his image (or at least his IP addresses), and to get any legitimate mail delivered.

And hey, if someone really cares about stopping spam, and cares about wanted email getting through, then what more perfect set up than providing both the stick to use against the spam, and the carrot to facilitate good email getting delivered - why not let Richter pay handsomely to get his legitimate mail through (if there is any) while causing all of his spam to be blocked?

If all of these things are, in fact, the case, then the question which is begged is this: should any one (or two) entities have the power to keep someone from sending any email at all, even completely legitimate email, to a significant sector of the Internet? If Microsoft is indeed going to only accept bulk mail which comes from a Bonded Sender listed IP address, and Ironport is going to refuse to allow certain senders to list themselves with Bonded Sender even with the money guarantee that only legitimate mail will be sent through those IP addresses, then ... well ... we're back to our old friend Aunty Trust. Of course, if this is the case, Microsoft's MSN and Hotmail users will probably bail to other, less megalomaniacal and more reasonable ISPs, and the whole thing will become moot.

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