Are blacklists killing more than spam?

Friday, 2 May 2003, 3:23 AM EST

Have some of the muscular responses to unsolicited bulk e-mail, such as blacklists that target Internet providers used by spammers, created problems of their own?

On Thursday, participants at a three-day spam summit convened by the Federal Trade Commission sparred over whether such blacklists are legal and whether they do more harm than good. Some speakers warned their use means that legitimate e-mail is often lost or silently discarded--becoming an accidental casualty in the war on spam.

Margie Arbon of the Mail Abuse Prevention System defended the practice of blacklisting, in which activists create and publish a list of Internet addresses that are linked with spammers. Internet service providers and individuals can subscribe to the list and use it to discard messages that originate from addresses on it.

"Blacklists are a decision by the owner of the equipment," Arbon said. "They are trying to defend their property...They are being inundated by this mail."

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