Spamhaus, the E360Insight lawsuit and the future of RBLs

by Bharat Suneja

If you’ve been keeping track of spam issues and RBLs, you probably took notice of the recent order by an Illinois court against leading RBL provider Spamhaus for listing Wheeling, IL-based E360Insight on its ROKSO (Register of Known Spam Operations) list. In a no-defence, default ruling, U.S. District Judge Charles Kokoras ordered [PDF] Spamhaus to pay $12 million to E360Insight.

Spamhaus claims 80% of spam received by users in U.S. and Europe is sent by a hard-core group of 200 known spam operations listed in ROKSO, and “can be traced via aliases and addresses, redirects, hosting locations of sites and domains”. Steve Linford, head of U.K.-based Spamhaus, refuses to take E360Insight off the list. Here’s the legal answer and update page on Spamhaus stating their side of the story.

E360Insight insists it’s a legit operation that only sends marketing emails to folks who opt in.

(As a sidenote, Rule#1 for most users who want to fight spam is – do not click on the unsubscribe links in spam messages – it confirms to spammers that your address is live/valid. No wonder not many people really opt out.)

Spamhaus refused to respond to the lawsuit or to defend itself. Linford insists according to U.K. laws the messages E360Insight sends are spam, and therefore it will continue to list it. Besides, an Illinois court does not have jurisdiction on a company that’s located on the other side of the pond.

Email users and sysadmins don’t like spam, and can’t be faulted to side with Spamhaus on this matter. I use Spamhaus and haven’t yet come across cases where use of their list drops any legitimate mails for me. Besides, I use Spamhaus voluntarily, without any pressure or compulsion from anyone.

I’ve probably received some marketing messages from E360Insight in the past, and I doubt I would’ve ever opted in to any of their lists. I’m not an attorney and cannot comment about how this judgement was arrived at – E360Insight does have their side of the story including court filings available on their web site.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Spamhaus didn’t seem to care that we are an opt-in email marketing company. They didn’t seem to care that the only way to get onto our mailing list was to signup for it. They didn’t seem to care about the thousands of customers would not receive order confirmation messages or other email messages they requested. They didn’t care about the lost dollars in legitimate commerce or about the employees that lost their jobs as a result”.

(I can see you’re all tears about now… :)

Disappointed as I am with the court’s ruling against Spamhaus, I would’ve been more disappointed had Linford caved in and removed E360Insight from their ROKSO list. I’m glad that did not happen!

As a Spamhaus user I’m happy with their service.

RBLs provide a great mechanism to block plenty of spam from entering the system. Spam that won’t enter your network, won’t clog your email system, won’t be processed by your anti-spam filters or stored in your mail queues or in your mail stores.

If mail senders get inappropriately listed on RBLs, they should be able to contact RBL providers and have their networks/IP addresses removed provided they have a valid case. And no, removal should not be as simple as going to a web site, entering an IP address and hitting the remove button.

Does this judgment cast a shadow on the future of RBLs/DNSBLs? I wouldn’t be too quick to jump to that conclusion just yet. However, it will be interesting to watch the activity on this front.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard October 16, 2006 at 9:25 pm

Unfortunately the attitude of Spamhaus is the real issue here. The fact that they failed to defend the case reflects the fact that they are not prepared to engage in mediation or to abide by the laws that govern our society.

The court case was their opportunity to prove that E360Insight had engaged in the sending of SPAM and to establish themselves as a provider of a legitimate and valuable service. Instead they have proved that they are vigilantes that have no regard for the law and will not present proof or justification for their actions.

In my opinion Spamhaus has two alternatives – either substantiate their claim that E360Insight belongs on RBL or take them off the list.

It is only when you become added to a RBL (unjustly) that you come to realise how UNACCOUNTABLE those that run them are.


Anonymous October 19, 2006 at 4:13 am

Richard said…
Unfortunately the attitude of Spamhaus is the real issue here. The fact that they failed to defend the case reflects the fact that they are not prepared to engage in mediation or to abide by the laws that govern our society.
:end quote

Read the story! Spamhouse started to defend themselves, and were then advised that the Illinois court had no jurisdiction.

e360 are lying onn their website.

London, UK


Anonymous May 31, 2007 at 3:45 pm

ye another “infected” company

e360 must be closed soon
it is used for mind/society control

corporate logo doesnt hide its origins


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