Ridiculous Court Ruling Against Spamhaus Anti-spam Organization

spamhaus anti-spam

Spamhaus is non-profit organization set up by Steve Linford in 1998 whose mission is to track the worst of organized spam operators. It provides anti-spam intelligence to internet services, Law Enforcement Agencies, and government anti-spam legislation. The organization is staffed by the world’s foremost anti-spam specialists whose “spammer blacklist” (ROKSO) is widely used in anti-spam filters by ISPs and webmail companies, including hotmail.com.

In an astonishingly misguided ruling, e360 Insight LLC a Chicago bulk-emailer won damages against spamhaus for being included in the Spamhaus blacklist. Spamhaus disagree on the facts of the case and on the jurisdiction, but did not appear at the US district court of Illinois; non-profit organizations of limited means cannot defend against disputes in all worldwide jurisdictions.

The bulk mailer won the $11.7m compensation, and Spamhaus was found to be in contempt of court after it failed to pay or remove the company’s name from its blacklist.

Furthermore, the order, which is being considered by district judge Charles P Kocoras, proposed that ICANN suspend spamhaus.org’s domain name until spamhaus comes to rule. ICANN has refused the request,

…. ICANN cannot comply with any order requiring it to suspend or place a client hold on Spamhaus.org or any specific domain name because ICANN does not have either the ability or the authority to do so. Only the Internet registrar with whom the registrant has a contractual relationship – and in certain instances the Internet registry – can suspend an individual domain name.

And since the internet registrar in question is likely to be outside the Illinois court jurisdiction, Spamhaus should be safe from the courts ridiculous verdict.

Geographical Jurisdiction over the Internet

The issue of geographical and national jurisdiction over the internet is central, again.
It is absurd that the Illinois court claim legal jurisdiction over a worldwide case. Few organizations have the legal budget to fight hostile legal claims worldwide. Some form of supra-national organization should be given legal juridiction for this type of internet based conflict. Spamhaus’ states

Spamhaus is however concerned at how far a U.S. court will go before asking itself if it has jurisdiction, and is intending to appeal the ruling in order to stamp out further attempts by spammers to abuse the U.S. court system in this way

The particulars of the case exaggerate how badly some local courts approach internet based disputes. A not-for-profit organization like Spamhaus is funded through low service fees from their users, and voluntary contributions by internet companies. Such limited funds do not provide for fighting legal cases in all country and state jurisdictions.

Illinois Court’s Competence on Internet Issues

The courts’s competence seems dubious also. The authority and competence of spamhaus over their anti-spam blacklist has been praised widely by many instititutions. Spamhaus itself states

….The Illinois ruling shows that U.S. courts can be bamboozled by spammers with ease, and that no proof is required in order to obtain judgments over clearly foreign entities…

Resources to Fight Spam

It is annoying to Spamhaus contributors how funds and resources are wasted at the expense of the internet community as a whole. Spamhaus’ non-appearance at the court case is a logical response.

The case mirrors how easily commercial interests manipulate government on Net Neutrality legislation. How Judge Charles Kocoras and the Illinois court fail to balance the bulk mailer’s arguments against pressing public interests, as expressed by the CAN-SPAM act, is beyond me.


Spamhaus domain name may be suspended – ZDNet UK News,

Illinois local legal commentary of the case here

ICANN Grants Temporary Reprieve to Spamhaus]

[Disclosure: Eucap portfolio companies invest heavily in anti-spam mechanisms. Plus I hate spam]

Emergent Democracy and Viral Marketing: The Pirate Party

george bush

The declining impact of TV advertising is having a positive impact on politics. A billion dollar war chest will no longer guarantee you an elected office. Now you need support from social groups and communities that are hard to influence centrally.

Collaborative filtering sites, like digg.com, del.icio.us, and even Google, are the political battle grounds of the future.
A political candidate will have to gain approval of communities of decentralized, independent and diverse individuals.

Community reputation in these collaborative groups is difficult to buy with money. Political campaigns win or lose by whether their ideas spread, by whether individuals are recommending them. A politician will win if his ideas are new enough, potent enough to spread like viruses. As a leading viral marketing expert explains,

“Your political goals (right, left or center) don’t really change the reality that marketing in politics is changing forever. The idea of a spend-and-burn candidacy is fading (how much more than a billion dollars per cycle can we spend?) and it’s being replaced by a person-by-person, viral approach that relies more than ever on authentic storytelling and worldviews.”
Seth’s Blog: Politics and the New Marketing

The efficient flow of information is giving rise to emergent democracy in politics, just it does to efficient markets in finance. Thus emergent democracy, as recently described by Joi Ito, will see the best representatives appointed to office regardlesss of party and financial backing. Representatives elected for the benefit of the whole, not the few.

Examples of smartmobs overthrowing governments in extreme situations are being replaced with popular ideas disrupting everyday politics to allow open society to self-organize without encumbrance from status quo institutions.

pirate party

An example of such a disruptive flash politics is The Pirate Party (Swedish: Piratpartiet). The party has gained wide support without institutional or financial backing. The idea that has enthused so many is to re-balance the power of copyright and patent laws in favor of the open society needs.

Politics is becoming an efficient market where support is earned through providing value to the community as a whole, and the status quo’s high-context in-groups are loosing their lock on representatives.

Social Filtering Site Digg.com Gets Smarter


Social news filtering sites, where users votes on the importance of news, are set to replace newspaper editors in the future. But current sites are struggling to harness the wisdom of the crowds of contributors. Digg.com one of the leading news filtering sites has made changes to improve their members voting quality.

With the ever increasing amount of information and news sources, filtering and ranking news has become essential. The blogosphere is often criticized for its bad quality and inability to inform, and newspaper owners are toughting bigmedia, newspapers, will win over the web. The big criticisms aimed at the blogosphere, at the Citizen Journalist, as a replacement to newspapers are:

  • Rubbish blog entry quality

    “Some blogs are conversations among people you’d frankly prefer not to meet, others ar cries for help and their writers are clearly in need of therapy. Others are just people expressing themselves, which is an entirely honourable pursuit, but would you like to meet this geek on a dark night?” Paul Hayes, The Times.

  • Inability to filter the good from the bad

Social filtering sites, like digg.com and technorati.com, are filtering and extracting relevant quality information. Work still remains though, one of the problems is Groupthink ; a herd mentality amongst voters, where the editorial is set by a smaller group of friends, and show a common thread or opinion. Worst are
the habitual witch hunts with the most popular
digg A-listers tarring digg.com critics

James Surowiecki, the leading proponent of the wisdom of the crowds, sets certain conditions for this filtering to be effective:

  • Diversity of Opinion:The broader the input of opinions and news the better

    A group of mix-skill agents perform better than a group of skilled agents

  • Independent Casting of VotesIf voters can imitate or be influenced by others in the casting of votes, groupthing or monkey-see-monkey-do syndrome sets in. In fact Surowwiecki observes the Unwisdom of the Crowds that comes with too much concensus and conformity
  • Decentralized Channels where no central organization has powers to influence the vote or the filtering, so voters remain truely independent. Linux development is a great example of decentralized collaboration
  • Intelligent Aggregation the diverse and independent opinions of the crowds must aggregated and averaged to extract its wisdom. A great example is Google’s study of people’s web links to a site through a complex aggregation system called pagerank to extract a ranking of web sites

The change to digg.com tries to resolve the herd or groupthink problem by favoring independent voters

This algorithm update will look at the unique digging diversity of the individuals digging the story. Users that follow a gaming pattern will have less promotion weight. This doesn’t mean that the story won’t be promoted, it just means that a more diverse pool of individuals will be need to deem the story homepage-worthy.
Kevin Rose, digg.com

An additional problem is the spammers skill in gaming the aggregation system in pursuit of peoples valuable attention.

Google has a groupthink problem also in that, due to the predominance of its search engine , people are now linking to sites the appear at the top of Google’s ranking only. People’s votes or web page links are being influenced by the concesus of the crowd. It seems information filtering sites are being hampered by their own success.

[Related link Head of “The Times” Dismisses Wisdom of the Crowds]

Scoble Reaches Mainstream Readers Finally

Robert Scoble, famous Microsoft blogger finally sees his book “Naked Conversations” selling in numbers. Published in January, with great blogosphere A-list support and promotion, it is only now selling in numbers, ranking 500th in Amazon. His explanation, I am reaching the mainstream

Back in January, our publisher, Robert and I were hearing a phenomenal amount of praise and we thought we had hit it out of the park. In fact, we were hearing the amplification of an echo chamber that we had warned about in Naked Conversations and we had merely made it to first base.

What’s happening now is that the word of mouth engine has motored past blogging’s inner circle. And that is helping us tremendously. What I also think is impacting us is a Long Tail factor, a book who’s strong takeoff is anything but long ail behavior.

From Naked Conversations: Naked Conversations: A Long Tail Case Study?.

Scoble’s book is finally reaching its intended audience the mainstream company PR teams who are starting to experiment with blogging as a corporate communication tool.

ADDENDUM CORRECTION: The blog entry regarding sales of “Naked Conversations” was penned by
Shel Israel (co-author), and not the-famous-one Robert.

(Sorry Shel)

World of Warcraft Smartmobs

World of Warcraft has hit the creative class hardcore, as detailed by Joi Ito, creative class guru. Joi’s latest obsession is his World of Warcraft guild in which he is the mayor of a 300 strong collective of enthusiast soldiers.
Joi describes how he has learned to stay connected to his Virtual Reality world, without necessarily being absent from the real world. Real life enhanced by virtual reality. Rheingold’s Smartmobs becoming a reality.
It is easy to dismiss Joi, and his antics. I recently heard a respected technology academic say jokingly “at least Joi has not gone into pornography”. But Joi works bottom-up, the appearance of a thing does not deter him; he is not hamstrung by corporate class prejudice. And his description of the real-time remote coordination of 100 strong raid should make any technologist sit up and listen.
Dont miss the video of Joi Ito et Loic Le Meur, les jeux en ligne

Head of “The Times” Dismisses Wisdom of the Crowds

Newspapers are the best souces of trusted information on the web, argues the managing director of Times Newspaper. Speaking at at the Internet World conference in London on Tuesday, Paul Hayes dismissed that wisdom can originate from the collective output of a diverse, independent and decentralized community. He argues power is unlikely to shift between consumers and media owners – “Why Newspapers will Win on the Web”.

“Some blogs are conversations among people you’d frankly prefer not to meet, others ar cries for help and their writers are clearly in need of therapy. Others are just people expressing themselves, which is an entirely honourable pursuit, but would you like to meet this geek on a dark night?”

Hayes continued to say

“Millions of blogs have sprung up over the last year, but a cursory search shows that the majority of their information sources lead back to mainstream media. The bloggers are seeking or delivering insight, but what they need is accurate information on whatever subject they’re interested in. Time and again, bloggers draw their readers’ attention to what they have read in papers, such as the Times.”

He argues that established content creators like newspapers are best placed to provide authoritative bloggers. He continued to say

“Blogs will be a continuing part of content output, but only a relative few will be read beyond the narrowest of audiences. Most of them will disappear unnoticed, and frankly unmissed by the world.”

Clearly, the wisdom of a collective does not exist in Mr Hayes’ world; the madness of the crowd is the rule.

Extracting the Wisdom of the Crowds – The next generation of news aggregators

Mr Hayes is ignoring the success of the new online recommendation systems. By aggregating the recommendations of millions of people, the way Google does, these services extract top quality news and information from the millions of individual contributors that Mr Hayes is criticizing.

These lists of most popular blogger contributions are gaining huge readership as an alternate source of Trusted news. Aggregator sites like, slashdot.org, del.icio.us, digg.com, and technorati.com are experiecing explosive growth. The sites rival “The Times” Online in readership, and the news items come from millions of contributors.

Mr Hayes may be telling a different story next year, as the quality of the news and stories emerging from millions and millions of contributors take center stage.

2006 the year of Peer to Peer power

Free computing and free storage on the net. Dave Winer, one of the creators of the whole RSS movement, gives us an example of the payoff in keeping the net neutral. The dream of free network computing and network storage accessible for all takes a step closer. Dave predicts 2006 will be the breakthrough year. Place a file on your web page, and your users can download it with no bandwidth cost to you. How ? the bittorrent network.

Dave predicts, all browsers will allow transparent bittorrent download of files by the end of the year. Amazon will lead the way,

Amazon ships S3, a public utility storage system, with native, automatic BitTorrent support. You can access any object in the the S3 store through BitTorrent as easily as you access it over HTTP. All the details are taken care of automatically. This is the prototype for server-side BitTorrent support — completely automatic and transparent.

Next steps for BitTorrent.

Free computing and free storage are around the corner. An example of the potential provided by net neutrality