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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Russian Anti-Spam Site 'Presumes Guilt'

Spews.org, a web site registered in Russia, has become famous -- or infamous -- in the global anti-spam campaign for its blacklists that condemn internet addresses as sources of unwanted marketing e-mails, blacklists that many call indiscriminate.

As a result of its lists, which trap honest firms along with the guilty, scores of web sites were taken off the Internet over the weekend because of new pressure on commercial Internet service providers to stop spam.

Most of the web sites that were shut down had no relation to the company accused of spamming other than having the same Internet service provider for their web site. But in the escalating spam battles, some anti-spam groups seem to care little about collateral damage.

On Sunday afternoon, 89 web sites operated by US Moneywerx, a Bryan, Texas, company that operates web sites for small businesses, were disconnected.

They were cut off because Server Beach, the San Antonio company that houses US Moneywerx's server, reacted to complaints by the public and an anti-spam group who said a site hosted by US Moneywerx was sending spam.

Richard Yoo, the president of Server Beach, said he evaluated information provided by Moscow-based Spews.org, or Spam Prevention Early Warning System. That site added to its list of spammers a small Los Angeles company called NetGlobalMarketing, a client of US Moneywerx.

Many Internet service providers block e-mail not only from sites identified on the Spews.org list but from any company that provides web services for those companies.

"I am not a spammer, and we do not spam," said Alyx Sachs, co-founder of NetGlobalMarketing, which says it was put on anti-spam blacklists though all the e-mail messages it sends are to people who have requested e-mail offers. "I run a marketing company, and we use e-mail the way we use radio or print."

Sachs said the company does work for dozens of well-established companies, including some in the travel, insurance and entertainment industries.

"People are being wrongfully accused of spamming based on rumor, gossip and innuendo," she said.

Sachs expressed particular frustration with the Spews site, because there is no way to talk to anyone from that organization to protest being placed on the list.

Spews operators are anonymous and offer no telephone number, address or e-mail address to contact them. Nonetheless, their list is widely used by Internet service providers looking to block spam.

Many say that while its intentions may be noble, Spews is going too far.

"Spews.org is infamous," said Igor Ashmanov, general director at Ashmanov and Partners, the company that has developed anti-spam software together with Kaspersky Labs. "They have an inadequate policy based on presumption of guilt," he said, adding that even if an ISP address is included on Spews' blacklist by mistake, it is never removed.

"Spews' activities are reminiscent of a fight with terrorists who take hostages in a bank and, with the help of megaton atom bombs, explode not just the vault but the entire city."

Yoo, the owner of Server Beach, said Spews has "a shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later mentality." But, he said, spam had become so much of a problem that it requires what amounts to rough justice.

(NYT, MT)