Censorship, email and politics

Discussion in 'Mail Chat' started by roundabout, Sep 21, 2011.

  1. roundabout

    roundabout VIP

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    Spamfiltering blocks email. This is something we all know and understand. For most people, that is everyone who doesn’t manage an email server or work in the delivery field or create spamfilters, filtering is a totally unseen process. The only time the average person notices filters is when they break. The breakage could be blocking mail they shouldn’t, or not blocking mail they should.

    Yesterday, a bunch of people noticed that Yahoo was blocking mail containing references to a protest against Wall Street. This understandably upset people who were trying to use email as a communication medium. Many people decided it was Yahoo (a tool of the elites!) attempting to censor their speech and stop them from organizing a protest.

    Yeah. Not so much.

    Yahoo looked into it and reported that the mail had gotten caught in their spam filters. Yahoo adjusted their filters to let the mail through and all was (mostly) good.

    I don’t think this is actually a sign of filters being broken. The blocked mail all contained a URL pointing to a occupywallst.com. I know there was a lot of speculation about what was being blocked, but sources tell me it was the actual domain. Not the phrase, not the text, the domain.

    The domain was in a lot of mostly identical mail coming out of individual email accounts. This is a current hallmark of hijacked accounts. Spammers compromise thousands of email accounts, and send a few emails out of each of them. Each email is mostly identical and points to the same URL. Just like the protest mail.

    There was also a lot of bulk mail being sent with that URL in it. I’ve been talking to friends who have access to traps, and they were seeing a lot of mail mentioning occupywallst.com in their traps. This isn’t surprising, political groups have some horrible hygiene. They are sloppy with acquisition, they trade names and addresses like kids trade cold germs, they never expire anything out. It’s just not how politics is played. And it’s not one party or another, it’s all of them. I’ve consulted with major names across the political spectrum, and none actually implement best practices.

    As I have often said the secret to delivery is to not have your mail look like spam. In this case, the mail looked like spam. In fact, it looked like spam that was coming from hijacked accounts as well as spam sent by large bulk mailers. I suspect there was also a high complaint rate as people sent it to friends and family who really didn’t want to hear about the protests.

    To Yahoo!’s credit, though, someone on staff was on top of things. They looked into the issue and the filter was lifted within a couple hours of the first blog post. A human intervened, overruled the algorithm and let the mail out.

    I bet this is one of the few times anyone has seen that Yahoo does outbound filtering. Given it’s a politically charged situation, I can see why they assume that Yahoo is filtering because of politics and censorship. They weren’t though.

    Source:
    http://blog.wordtothewise.com/
     
  2. CoinMail

    CoinMail New Member

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    Yeah, I like Yahoo okay as well but it was the Spamhaus CSS that was doing the filtering from my understanding. I admire Yahoo for preventing false positives, but that does not change the fact that Spamhaus was able to affect local American politics in NYC. Spamhaus has no interest in Wall Street, but their filters are designed to be flawed and politics are often the victims of Spamhaus' flawed filtering process. Kudos to Yahoo for fixing it for that campaign, but my advise is to get rid of Spamhaus filtering altogether to avoid future false positives.
     
  3. roundabout

    roundabout VIP

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    Not so sure about this claim - do you have a source?

    CSS isnt really a filter, it's essentially a pre-emptive SBL that affects that IPs sending rep just like an SBL would, but temporary. CSS wouldnt affect this, given Yahoo was blocking email with political overtones from hundreds or thousands of unique people. Also, if it had been CSS, Yahoo would point the blame at that, so as to not tarnish the rep of their "awesome" filters.
     
  4. nickphx

    nickphx VIP

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    Yahoo blocks domains all day. It's pretty much like the article said, if a large amount of diverse accounts suddenly start sending maill all containing the same domain that has had little to no activity until recently, it's probably a large group of phished/compromised accounts so the domain gets slapped..

    It has nothing to do with CSS/SBL or anything else.. This was about yahoo accounts SENDING email with a certain domain in the message body.. Yahoo only uses SBL for inbound connections sending mail INTO yahoo.. They maintain their own filters for domain reputation.

    Sad thing is, any half retarded mailer that illegally spams by sending through yahoo accounts knows to rotate domains.
     

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