SPEWS is Love
It is all about the benjamins, sirrah.
SPEWS.ORG is a shadowy internet organization, run by unknown people that provides IP blocklists for mail servers to use to filter out unwanted spam. SPEWS.ORG includes entire class c, b, and a subnets (ranging into the millions of IP addresses) in its blocklists if it means blocking only handfuls of spammers originating from within the subnet. Their blocklist includes entire states and entire service providers for countries ranging from Brazil to China. If you have DSL and are in Sao Paulo, Brazil you cannot send an e-mail to an administrator who is utilizing the SPEWS.ORG blocklist. To get off of the SPEWS.ORG blocklist you are told by the FAQ to post a request in either of two newsgroups frequented mainly by people not affiliated with SPEWS. When you post that you are not a spammer the people on these newsgroups will insist that it doesn't matter because you are supporting a spammer by using their hosting/service. Essentially there is no way to get off the blocklist without either switching ISPs or forcing your provider into doing whatever SPEWS demands of it, which ultimately boils down to SPEWS blackmailing people into fighting whatever ISPs they don't like.
This is a personal issue now for the staff of Something Awful because on July 20th SPEWS.ORG added a fat chunk of a class b subnet being hosted by our provider (Cogent Communications/New Horizons) to their blocklist. This fat chunk happened to include Something Awful, meaning that roughly 10-20% of our outgoing e-mails would bounce. This is a pretty major problem when you consider that registering a SA Forums account requires an email confirmation, and when users fail to get this confirmation because SPEWS has blocked it, they complain to us, and we have no way to explain why they're not getting our emails because, hey, they can't get our emails. One look at their newsgroup told us what the response would be from SPEWS when we requested that they whitelist us; they wouldn't. Those of you who have been reading Something Awful for a considerable length of time might remember that around two years ago Something Awful could not stay on a host for more than a month or two. We were shuttling from ISP to ISP and dumping money down holes that often ate that money and closed completely. At one point we even pre-paid for three months of hosting at one provider and received no service, the host just disappeared off the face of the planet. When we signed on for Cogent we expected the same but were pleasantly surprised to find relatively decent tech support, uptimes, and best of all, a colo facility near to some of our techs who could go on site if need be.
My penis just can't get big enough. It's like eighty feet long after buying into all these transparent enlargement scams.
On an average month Something Awful's servers move over 4 terabytes of information. When you tell John Q. ISP that you need a 100mbit dedicated connection and the ability to shift 4+ terabytes a month downstream he will shit his pants. I know; I cold called about a dozen feasible ISPs years ago when we were looking for a solution to our problems and most did not return my call requesting a quote either because they thought it was a joke or because they knew they couldn't handle it. On top of this what few hosts did return our calls tended to have outrageously expensive prices. We do not live high on the hog here at SA, we have a revenue stream and it's healthy, but we cannot afford most premium collocation services. The whole "free entertainment industry" doesn't really fork out the big bucks.
After being on the SPEWS blocklist for over two weeks I suggested on our forums that the users head on over to the two newsgroups frequented by SPEWS and take advantage of the free newsgroups generously provided to us. Childish? Probably, but we've never been ones to deal with problems and leave our sense of humor behind. Naturally the arrival of over 1500 off topic posts on the SPEWS newsgroups was not well received and our servers were promptly DDoSed while I was signed up for about 100 spam e-mail lists in the span of five minutes. The irony of both of these incidents wholly escaped the SPEWS advocates who claimed it was no doubt some spammers lurking on their newsgroups or even our own users trying to give them a bad reputation. Personally, I don't think spammers or SA users need to do much to earn SPEWS a bad reputation, I think anyone who has dealt with SPEWS knows that it blocks nearly as much legitimate e-mail as it does spam. In fact I received dozens of e-mails from network admins working for companies large and small who said exactly that with most also emphasizing that "only a lazy idiot" - to quote one of the e-mails - would use the SPEWS listing on their network.
Awesome! My FREE PASSWORD IS HERE!
I'm not so sure about that, as funny as it seems to me now. I think a lot of network admins are simply ignorant of the damage SPEWS can do to their company and their users, which is why I am writing this piece. SPEWS provides a blocklist with zero oversight, zero accountability, and zero recourse for average users caught between their ISP and SPEWS.ORG's moral crusade. SPEWS will tell you that you in fact do have recourse and that is to switch ISPs. For Something Awful that is not economically feasible, for users in the nation of Brazil where their entire broadband provider has been blacklisted that is impossible. In addition to all this most of the SPEWS advocates on the newsgroups we so unceremoniously invaded demonstrated a willingness to add IP ranges to their own blacklists and potentially SPEWS for petty personal reasons. Complain about how SPEWS operates? Get added to the blacklist, often permanently, while they pretend that it somehow makes your situation worse.
I personally found the church of Scientology's lawyers a lot scarier than a bunch of arrogant nerds on Usenet, and we sure as hell didn't back down from them. In fact I find SPEWS.ORG's ham-fisted approach to fighting spam eerily similar to the Church of Scientology, so much so that I think it's time for a little compare and contrast.
There are a number of sites devoted to exposing SPEWS.ORG for the travesty and complete madness that it is. While I would love to do nothing more than devote Something Awful wholly to the cause of seeing SPEWS.ORG rendered obsolete and pointless we have a business to run and can't spend all day playing in the nerd sand box with the Usenet cretins. If you would like more evidence I would suggest you check out one of the following sites:
Spews Linked to Spammers
An overly insane but interesting anti-SPEWS site
A Google Cache of one of several anti-SPEWS sites driven under by SPEWS and its cronies
A Register article on the fight against SPEWS
A great Chicago Tribune article on the damage spam-blocking can do
A similar ZD Net article about the same topic
Yet another article about out of control anti-spam policies
Oh, but I am nowhere near done yet. After digging through those sites I did some digging of my own and discovered a number of fun facts about SPEWS and the shadowy cabal behind it.
FUN FACT NUMBER ONE: Usenet advocates of SPEWS write anti-spam erotic fanfiction. You thought nothing could top those Pretender/Stargate SG-1 slash crossovers you've read, well time to reconsider. Keep in mind that every single one of them combines sadism with a healthy dose of self insertion. Here's a sample from "Dalliance Hosting" by Peterp@linux-superhost.com.
A Body Thetan is unleashed after you beat it up and it flashes red and gets bigger.I don't know about you but if I had a gasket you could consider it fully blown. I don't think I even have to tell you how much steam is emerging from my starched collar as I pull it away from my neck with my index finger!
Sara rang the doorbell nervously. She couldn't believe that just yesterday she had been sending out bulk e-mails promoting her webcam. Now that she had seen the truth she wanted nothing more than to show her gratitude to Peterp however he demanded.
"Kneel before Fenris," said the leather clad man who answered the door.
She obeyed him and he attached a leash to her neck.
"Now you shall service my mighty staff," he sat in a Stanheyser ergonomic leather executive chair, his legs spread, and he unbuckled the clasp on his codpiece.
She was in awe of the sheer size, she had never seen a doohickey so big and as her lips parted to touch his thingy she could hear the cronjobs clicking softly away in the background. They were a hypnotic lull.
"Yes Sara," murmured Fenris/Peterp, "soon you will be mine entirely."
His thing was really, really big. Like at least twenty inches.
FACT NUMBER TWO: SPEWS.ORG was founded and financed by seven men in Southern Russia who formed a sort of commune near the Caucuses. All of them were wealthy American expatriates who fled the country for child molestation in the early nineties. From their bizarre cult-like home they founded two newsgroups and their supposedly anti-spam system in an effort to slowly erode e-mail traffic on the internet until only their own private server remained unblocked. Once every other server on the internet is shut down the seven men plan to begin spamming all e-mail addresses around the world with advertisements for their "Preteen Russian Brides" service. Desperate to receive any e-mail whatsoever, nerds will finally embrace the cause of child molestation completely and the seven will return to America as conquering heroes.
FACT NUMBER THREE: Network admins who use the SPEWS.ORG blocklist are seven times more likely to die unloved and alone than those who either use no blocklist or one of many less draconian SPEWS alternatives.
FACT NUMBER FOUR: Network admins who use the SPEWS.ORG blocklist are thirty eight times more likely to attempt to hot glue a realistic latex vagina to a skateboard and call it by their mother's first name while having intercourse with it than those who either use no blocklist or one of many less draconian SPEWS alternatives.
FACT NUMBER FIVE: One in three people who have permanently blacklisted someone for complaining that SPEWS is unfair have also been arrested for attempting to coerce sex from zoo animals. Nine out of ten of these people have also been imprisoned for failure to pay child support to sea turtles.
FACT NUMBER SIX: The anti-spam people on the SPEWS related newsgroups don't just post social security numbers and credit card numbers of suspected spammers, they also post photos of suspected spammers going to the bathroom. That doesn't seem that bad until you realize that they could not have possibly had a camera there, bringing me to the next fact.
Your average SPEWS user.
FACT NUMBER SEVEN: Proponents of SPEWS to a man worship dark powers and perform occult rituals in the privacy of the basement apartments they are renting from their parents. SPEWS supporters have also participated in no less than 800 leprechaun abductions over the past decade and it is suspected that they can astral project.
FACT NUMBER EIGHT: If you run a network with any significant number of people using the SPEWS blocklist will cause them to be murdered one after another by a mysterious black cloaked vigilante called The Night Shadow. No matter how hard you attempt to track him down he will always be one step ahead and will taunt you by posting photos of the victim on hot-or-not and then e-mailing you through anonymous proxy.
FACT NUMBER NINE: One thousand monkeys on one thousand typewriters are significantly better at differentiating spam from legitimate e-mail than SPEWS is. In fact SPEWS is so horrible that tests run at our Loc Cruces facility indicated Wil Wheaton's severed hand, while completely motionless, is still better at picking legitimate e-mails out of blocked spam.
FACT NUMER TEN: SPEWS supporters are intensely interested in Dungeons & Dragons but they make really shitty players because they always power game barbarians and roleplay their characters by screaming whenever the dungeon master is describing a monster. They also keep up constant pressure to have adventures revolve around rescuing unconscious female elves and demand first pick on all treasure. Hey, don't look at me like that, I'm just telling you what I found out.
That's all fun and games but the bare fact is that a lot of sites you may or may not enjoy have run into trouble with SPEWS and may still be blacklisted by them. I'm sure if it wasn't written in stone already this update has pretty much guaranteed Something Awful's permanent entry into the SPEWS hall of fame. Worth 1000 is also currently in an IP range being listed by SPEWS, Fark has been in the past, and some day your server may be blocklisted too. Getting off that list may be as easy as tracking down one spammer on your own private network, or it could be a task that leads to your business going bankrupt. Hell, your network may even clean up their act but SPEWS might just have a grudge against it and decide to never whitelist it.
We're on the list probably forever, and that doesn't really bother me since thanks to support from web sites who know about the crap we've gone through in the past we can now wholly ignore SPEWS blacklisting. That doesn't lessen my determination to put a stop to this mysterious geek cabal, because your server or ISP might show up on that list next. Boycott SPEWS if you make network admin decisions, boycott companies that use SPEWS if you're in the market for an ISP, and most importantly inform yourself about the anti-spam techniques your ISP is currently using. You vote with your money in the market so use it to vote against SPEWS.
Howdy folks, Livestock here with another stereotypical Photoshop Phriday announcement. It's new, gosh darnit. This week the SA Goons took a look at history's greatest unsent telegrams. And my, we'd be living in a much different world if all these telegrams managed to make it through.