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Bob Allisat

Okay. Like welcome to the Internet. By now you've all recieved those endlessly madening ad e-mails claiming this or that, selling endlessly mind-numbing garbage from magic pimple cream to make a million investment scams. All those damned phoney subject lines like: "We Recieved this by mistake" or "Hi! We Chatted Last Week!" bogosities. And who hasn't cursed the seemingly bottumless capacity of our fellow humanoids for interminable greed and abuse at our expense through this bloody modern electronic form of torture junk mail? OKAY LIKE ENOUGH is what we all wanna say! Just freaking ENOUGH ALREADY! And most of us just dutifully delete the shite muttering our silent curses into dead freaking air.

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Well... not if you're Paul Vixie Internet old timer and demi-god you don't. Ohhhhh nnnnno. You Blackhole the bastards responsible for the junk mail. And what (you ask) is a Blackhole? Well as you may gather it's something that nasty spam e-mail never escapes from. Too bad that also means anything else to, through or from the computers responsible for sending all that evil spam. That could mean your e-mail, your sweethearts love letter, your frigging resume or that long lost friend's long awaited reply. It all goes together down the virtual toilet to deletion and non-existance. And the best thing is you will never even know it's happening. All your e-mail just disappears.

All to save us from so-called spam e-mail. In a digital nutshell that's what "Blackholing" is all about. Vixie's MAPS (Mail Abuse Prevention System) has a feature called the "Realtime Blackhole List". Based on reports from a network of finks/snitches Vixie collects the names of allegedly offending Internet Services Providers. Then he enters the numeric addresses in a table which is then placed on computer systems around the world entirely blocking them from communications with those various computers.

For example if the server you have your account on was "Blackholed" by a MAPS friendly system administrator anyone you send mail to on that system would simply never recieve it. It would fall into a "Black Hole" because some other person or company using the same server fell into displeasure with Vixie and associates.

"So what's the problem?" you ask yourself. "It eliminates SPAM!" Well the problem is it also eliminates everything else coming and going. It also removes any control you may have over what mail you are/are not recieving. This practice of "Black Holing" places all of the authority to screen Internet electronic mail in the hands of a select band of technicians and their buddies. We cannot decide for ourseleves what is or is not appropriate e-mail. And no-one knows when or even if they're being censored. Seems to be a pretty clear violation of our civil liberties and fundamental human rights to freedom of expression and association. Seems to be rather unethical and not a little kooky to try and control what passes for e-mail.

If we don't counteract this interferance with the free passage of communications expect even greater problems in the future. Techies imagining themselves to be secret police, kangaroo court and jury of idiots may attempt all sorts of other mind control stunts in the name of protecting us all from ourselves. Opening quite the virtual pandora's box of evils and plain badness.

Many ISP's utilize MAPS. A list is included below but foremost among these is WEBTV.NET. This
is a system made up of entertainment style access to the WWW and E-mail. It is highly unlikely any of their subscribers have either the choice or the knowledge of the use of the black list. Web TV provides a lame Anti-spam policy but there is no further indication or explaination that Web TV is censoring net access for it's clients. People probably are left scratching their heads when mail never appears or various sites are inexplicably unaccessible. Shame on you WEB TV!

If you are a subscriber of Web TV or if you find their use of Vixie's black list disturbing you can reach them at:

1 (800) GO-WEBTV

WebTV Networks, Inc.
2593 Coast Avenue
Mountain View CA 94043
ATTN: Legal Department

Do you want to know more? If so there are a few articles out there, none extremely informative. For what they're worth: Boardwatch magazine discusses RBL and Mr. Vixie responds. The fellow also rationalizes RBL directly at his WWW site.
The are two rather biassed encounter groups supporting RBL. There is also an article from computer manufacturer SUN providing an indication of some soft corporate support for RBL.

Basically (except for good old FCN!) it's a bit of a wasteland out there. The powers that be generally avoiding controversy and favouring pro-censorship stuff like this. Below is a list of some of the sites using the black list. If your Internet Provider isn't on this list don't assume they are clean. Because most providers *don't* tell their clients or give them any choice. It's up to you to find out, protest and move if you don't get censorship free service.

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