Thundercloud and Eightball RANT - Cloudeight Internet LLC

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Our Little Rant by Eightball & Thundercloud
First published in InfoAve Premium Issue #143 July 14, 2006

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Can You Hear Me Now?

Despite the picture and the title of this "rant" we have no problem with Verizon Wireless. We both have Verizon Wireless phones and are satisfied with the service. And this rant isn't about Verizon Wireless, it's about

We do have a problem with - the Internet Service Provider who has apparently now joined up with several other major ISPs and thousands of small ISPs who are trying to convince their users and the public that censorship disguised as "spam protection" is a good thing.

As we have said many times before, it's not a good thing. How can not getting your good email and still getting spam - be called a "service"? It's censorship with a modern name - and that's all it is.

But, let's go back to Verizon Wireless (or any Wireless service). Will the day come when our cell phone service providers block calls and messages from our friends and family members because our cell phone numbers are being spammed with text messages? It will never happen because you and I wouldn't stand for it.

So why then, is email any different? For some reason there are still people who have been convinced by ISP advertising blitzes that censorship under a new name "spam filtering" "protection from spam" or other Madison Avenue catch-phrases is a good thing.

Is it a good thing when you don't receive important email? Think so? Do you still think it is a good thing if you don't receive important email and never knew it even existed? Despite what ISPs try to tell you, no server spam filtering is even close to 100% accurate. They might use numbers like 97%, 99% but in reality we'd be surprised if it was even close to 80% accurate.

Why are we picking on Verizon in this rant? Because Verizon has implemented new (and stupid policy) base on old technology called "white listing". White listing never worked in the past, and, Hey! Verizon! Can you hear me now? It isn't going to work now either.

One of our readers sent us some correspondence she's been having with Verizon (the Internet Provider) over the last few days. She wrote with a legitimate complaint. She's subscribed to over a dozen newsletters that she enjoys - and some, like our own Information Avenue Premium she pays for but does not get. Why doesn't she get them? Because her ISP has censored them, er, um ....blocked them as spam. And now she's furious and wants Verizon to stop censoring and deleting her email. But what does she get back in response to her attack on Verizon censorship? A canned response. Hey, don't take our word for it, you can read it yourself:

Thank you for contacting Verizon Online Security.

In order to resolve your issue, Verizon Online Security has attempted to contact the company or domain for which you were having problems receiving email.

Once Verizon Online Security has received contact from the 3rd party, we will work with them to resolve the issue in a timely manner. In order to assist us and to expedite the process, you may wish to contact the company or domain on your own behalf.  Please direct the appropriate party to to submit their information for research and consideration.


Verizon Online Security

Well whatever, Verizon. We've had problems sending Verizon subscribers order confirmations and answering support requests that come from unfortunate Verizon subscribers. Many of these were censored by Verizon (hmm I mean "filtered") for what? I don't know, but I can tell you one thing, they never contacted us - and why should we jump through hoops, contact Verizon anyway, we're not on any blacklists, but apparently we're not on Verizon's so-called Whitelists either. And why is Verizon "Online Security" handling this anyway? Oh, that's easy - and we have to give Verizon this week's Mountain Out Of A Molehill award. Apparently, a great many Verizon customers are upset with Verizon's email censorship - a simple search for problems with Verizon email on July 14, 2006 using the search phrase "problems with Verizon email" yielded 10,200,000. Yes! You read that right - that's TEN MILLION TWO-HUNDRED THOUSAND. Hey Verizon, can you hear them now?

What's even more incredible is that Verizon is being sued over its email censorship policy and turns around and makes it even worse than it was when the lawsuit was filed. Take a look at this:

"Aggrieved Verizon customers are invited to join a class action that seeks damages arising from the US ISP's enthusiastic email filtering policies. Philadelphia law firm Kohn, Swift & Graf, P.C. filed suit this week against Verizon on behalf of a DSL subscriber in a civil case that seeks class action status.

Since 22 December, mail servers at have been configured to reject connections from Europe and other parts of the world including China and New Zealand by default, according to Reg readers and industry sources such as MessageLabs. Verizon says the move is designed to reduce spam and says it is following industry best practice and applying blacklists as "narrowly" as possible.

Domains can be unblocked on request but Verizon's catch-all filtering has generated fierce criticism, reflected in letters from Reg readers in response to our report last week on the e-blockade...." (See this page for the full article )

Well, Verizon, it looks like thousands are speaking out, can you hear them now? Maybe not. Maybe your censorship policy has gotten so out of hand that you are even blocking your own mail. Can you look on your server to see if maybe you got the one from me? Apparently not, because you never answered. Heck, I didn't even get a canned reply. So, I'll tell you what, I'll post it here, so you can read it because I really think your aggressive censorship policy is so aggressive it's even preventing you from getting you own email! So, I'll forgive you for not bothering to even acknowledge my letter to you. I'm positive, given your censorship policies, you never even saw it. Hey, and while you're there how about a click or two on an advertisement? To a small outfit like ours, a few pennies makes a big difference. I'm sure that's hard for you to comprehend, but trust us, it's true.

We spent some time going over the "Verizon Censorship Policy" and we're going to consider briefly some of its low points (and there are many).

In letters to their customers, they group spam and viruses together as if they are one and the same. And they are not. SPAM is not in and of itself, dangerous. Its purpose is scamming or selling you something, and not trying to infect your computer. But, Verizon uses scare tactics to justify their censorship policy. (Dictators do the same thing when they implement censorship policies on citizens.) Verizon appears to want their customers to think spam is going to get them and destroy their computers. No wonder so many people are afraid to look in their spam folder if using email services like Yahoo, Hotmail, and others. They are afraid it will "Get Them!" And Verizon is using this misinformation to implement a censorship policy that gets worse and worse.

Verizon's censorship policy starts off with an illogical premise and snowballs from there. No one who knows anything about the Internet or computers is going to believe that spam equals virus. They must think all of their customers are stupid and treat them that way? We're betting they're not. Most know or will soon learn that spam is not a virus. While it's true that worms can be transmitted attached to spam that is not the same as calling spam itself "dangerous" or calling it a virus. Most spam is just annoying or offensive. And even in that regard Verizon has no business deciding for individual customers what is offensive or annoying to them. I get a lot of junk mail via the U.S.P.S.. And some days that's all I get. But, I'll be darned if I'd ever want the United States Postal Service meddling with or censoring my snail-mail because I find some of the junk I get annoying and sometimes offensive. I'm an adult and I can handle my own affairs myself, thank you!

So now we are telling everyone who reads this, how ridiculous your censorship is and how flawed the premise you use to assert it is. Spam does not equal virus. Spam is annoying and sometimes offensive but its not going to destroy your computer or steal your passwords. Instead of encouraging your customers to make sure they have good anti-virus programs installed; to keep up with the latest Microsoft patches and updates; to use two or more good anti-spyware programs; and to advise them if they're having a problem with spam to install a good anti-spam program on their own computer and decide for themselves what is spam and what is not; you have decided you're going to play big brother and keep them "safe" from this nefarious hazard called spam. The most nefarious and dangerous thing is when people are misled into believing its big brother's job to protect them from this dangerous thing (or so you say) called "spam". It's not your job, Verizon. Can you hear me now?

Verizon states: "...If we review a restricted e-mail address or domain and determine, based on the information available, that it does not pose a current unacceptable risk to our members or our network, the e-mail address or domain can be "whitelisted" and, therefore, e-mail delivery will be allowed to your mailbox...." Again, they are insinuating that spam is risky and dangerous in and of itself Its not. Spam tries to sell things to make the spammer some easy money. But is that dangerous? No. But, indeed some spam tries to scam people. But people have been scammed since time began. Its up to recipients to have a common sense. Or is Verizon now going to be its customers' common sense provider too? We resent that Verizon keeps using "scare tactics".. to justify illegal interference and censorship of its customers' personal property. And email addressed to you, spam or not, is your personal property. Making spam sound dangerous is just a ruse to justify censorship and if Verizon's customers wake up and realize this then maybe Verizon (and the other ISP which try to justify censorship) will stop the charade and concentrate on more important things like providing the services for which they are being paid.

Let's bring it closer to home. We've had lots of problems getting order confirmations and replies to requests for support to customers. Why would anyone like us (Cloudeight) be on their restricted list to begin with? Our mail is not spam or a virus. So, they are really putting anyone on it they want? We are on ZERO blacklists.. I am wondering how we got on their list? It appears that apparently everyone is on it; sort of like "guilty until proven innocent"?

We waste a dozens of hours per week trying to find a way to get email responses to Verizon customers. In the meantime, while we are trying every possible way we can to answer someone with a Verizon email address; Verizon customers are writing emails to us accusing us of ignoring them! We're not ignoring them, their ISP is censoring their email and they don't have a clue that this is being done.

So, it's up to you to write to your ISP and tell them to stop censoring your email. Tell them you'll take responsibility for deciding what is offensive or annoying and you'll make the decision what to keep and what you'll throw away. And even if you're not a Verizon customer, you can still write them and tell them what you think of them misleading their customers to justify censorship.

We have always fought for the individual's rights to a free and uncensored Internet; even though that means they will be some nasty things we'll all have to avoid. And, we will continue to fight against ISPs who censor and delete their customer's email without their customers' knowledge or explicit permission. Only the individual can be entrusted with the right to decide what is spam and what is not spam; not some machine, whitelist, blacklist, script or program.

Unlike you, Verizon, we believe your customers have enough sense to know how to deal with spam; how to install and keep a good anti-virus program updated and current; and to make decisions as to what email they want and what email they don't want. And we will continue to stress how giving up one freedom can lead to less freedom for us all. We will fight you on this and we'll fight any other ISP who interferes with, censors, or meddles with any individuals' email. After all, email addressed to a customer does not belong to anyone but that customer, even if they don't want it or don't like it. It's not up to you or any ISP to decide for them; it's up to the individual - not the Internet Provider, to decide.

I'm just glad that my ISP isn't Can you hear me now?

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