OK, now let’s turn to the real bad guy in all of this. The
webhost who shuts down a website on the grounds of nothing more
than the say-so of an unverified spam complaint. In my case,
it’s DumbHost but I know there are many other webhosts and ISPs
out there who are just as irresponsible.
Here’s the email I received from DumbHost informing me my site
had been shut down:
“To whom it may concern,
“We recieved [sic] the following spam complaint regarding
ahbbo.com. Your domain will be temporarily disabled for 3 days.
You can have your domain re-enabled at the end of this 3 day
period by requesting so at firstname.lastname@example.org. If we
continue to recieve [sic] complaints, action may be taken to
disable your domain.
“Regards, Abuse Response Team”
The email that followed was the one from WeStopSpam.net.
Note that my site was shut down because “[w]e recieved [sic] the
following spam complaint regarding ahbbo.com”. Not because I had
SPAMMED, mind you, but because DumbHost had received a spam
COMPLAINT. The notification that my site had been disabled was
the FIRST communication from DumbHost on the matter.
An appropriate response would have been: “We’ve received a
complaint of spamming against you. We take all complaints of
spamming very seriously. Please let us have your response to
this complaint so we may take appropriate action”. But I guess
that would have been too much like due process for DumbHost to
want to bother with.
Here’s what followed:
From me to DumbHost:
“If you even bothered to read the “offending email” you will see
that it came from so-and-so.com, NOT ahbbo.com. The publisher of
the email in question reprinted one of my articles in his
newsletter. That article contained a resource box which
contained a link to my domain.
“If my site is shut down for ANY length of time as a result of
this complaint, expect a lawsuit without further notice.”
Their reply (from “Level II Customer Care Representative” – ha!):
“Was this bulk mail authorized by you? This is considered an
offense of our terms of service no matter where it originates as
long as the email is sent or authorized by you. The email
advertises your website, that is why your domain has been
disabled for 3 days.
Regards, Abuse Response Team”
“No! I’ve never heard of these people before. It is common
practice for newsletter publishers to publish articles written
by other people. The author’s resource box is always included at
the end of the article. If this person’s newsletter went to
someone who wasn’t subscribed, then it’s the newsletter
publisher who should be reported for spamming, not the innocent
author who is unfortunate enough to have their work reprinted.
“Did anyone even read the email concerned before shutting my
site down? It’s obvious what happened. If my site is not
reinstated today, I will be issuing legal proceedings tomorrow.
“By the way, don’t you think your question should have been
asked BEFORE shutting me down, not after?”
“Okay, I was asked to take a look at your account, I will
forward this information to abuse and they should get back to
Jordan M. Level II Customer Care”
(They apparently don’t use full names at Level II Customer Care.
Can’t imagine why.)
Finally, this one from the “Abuse Response Team” at DumbHost:
“In light of this new information, I have gone ahead and
re-enabled your domain. Be advised that any mass emails such as
this will be considered a violation of our terms of service. You
may want to take steps to ensure that services such as this are
not sending out this kind of advertisement for your site.
Regards, Abuse Response Team”
“They did not send an advertisement for my site. My articles are
publicly available for reprint, as are thousands of other
authors’. It is usual practice for authors to give permission
for reprinting provided the newsletter publisher publishes the
author’s resource box at the end of the article. It’s a way of
generating traffic to the author’s website.
“The author has no control over who uses the article in this
way. Is a paying advertiser in an ezine shut down if the
publisher of the ezine sends a spam email (assuming that it was
spam in the first place)? … That policy makes no sense
Nothing. Zip. Nada. No apology, no nothing.
Nice going DumbHost. You must be proud.
PLAN OF ACTION
My experience was pretty trivial in the scheme of things. I was
able to get my site restored in just a couple of hours. Consider
the damage that could be done to your business if that didn’t
happen though. What would be the impact on YOUR bottom line if
your site was shut down for 3 days? Or a week? Or for good?
So, what’s the innocent party to do in a situation like this?
Here’s one plan of action:
1. SUE irresponsible complainer for defamation. 2. SUE
irresponsible spam police for defamation. 3. FIRE webhost. 4.
SUE fired webhost for lost profits.
I for one am not generally in favor of government regulation
when it comes to the Internet. This is one area, however, in
which I must say some form of governmental control should be
taken. Where else but online can you have a situation where it’s
commonplace for someone to take punitive action against an
innocent bystander BEFORE giving them a fair hearing? Where else
but online can ignorant and/or malicious individuals be allowed
to cause such injury to someone else’s livelihood without being
called to account? Try that in the real world and you’ll be
answering a charge of vandalism, defamation and trespass to
goods just to start.
It’s high time someone took a balanced approach to the issue of
spam and recognized that, although spam is an undeniable
problem, so too are anti-spam zealots and plain malicious types
who think it’s sport to trash some innocent person’s business
and reputation. They should be held to account for the damage
In addition, in recognition of this unfortunate fact of online
life, a fact, I might add, of which webhosts are only too well
aware, webhosts should also be held accountable for shutting
down livelihoods based only on the prosecution’s case in chief.
The defense is entitled to be heard and any conviction that
results from a one-sided hearing is nothing short of an abject
denial of due process. The legal profession can’t get away with
that. Why the hell should webhosts?
* Fictionalized names.