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What to do if you're listed on SPEWS

The newsgroup (NANAB) regularly plays host to blocklist removal requests. Most of those requests seem to be aimed at SPEWS (the Spam Prevention Early Warning System). The SPEWS FAQ says that “general blocklist related issues can be discussed in the public forums” including NANAB. The end result is that lots of folks post to NANAB, asking that their IP address(es) be removed from SPEWS. Those folks get lots of responses, and only some of them are helpful. Because (as of January, 2007) SPEWS seems to have been frozen in time for many months, I’m sharing this information on my site to help affected folks get the facts on what’s going on, and provide suggestions on how to handle the situation.

Note: This isn’t guidance on how to avoid getting listed or sidestep anti-spam groups. This is information regarding how to address an issue with a now-defunct blocklist, where there’s nobody at the group to contact to request delisting.

If you’re listed on the SPEWS blocking list, as confirmed by checking their website, then I’m of the opinion that the following steps are probably what you should take to deal with the issue.

  1. Check the status of SPEWS here. If it’s long out of date, proceed with the steps below. If it’s been updated recently, read the SPEWS website for information on how to proceed.
  2. Assuming that SPEWS has not been updated in months, your next step should be a review your bounce data. Does it contain bounce data that references a SPEWS block?
  3. If no, don’t worry about it. You just determined that you’re not having blocking issues that you can trace back to SPEWS. It’s annoying that you’re listed on the website, but there’s little easy recourse available to you to address that. However, if your bounce data does indicate blocking that you can trace to a SPEWS listing, proceed with the following steps.
  4. If you have a spam issue, resolve it. Just because SPEWS may be gone, doesn’t mean that your spam blocking issues are going to magically going to go away. If SPEWS is listing you, other blocklists or ISPs are probably blocking your mail. Make sure you’re doing everything possible to comply with best practices, and remember that complying with the law just isn’t enough. I realize that this guidance is pretty brief and high level. Reach out to an email service provider (ESP) or email deliverability/reputation consultant for further assistance, as appropriate.
  5. Contact the site bouncing your mail. Show them that SPEWS is out of date and is no longer updating. Feel free to point them at this site. You should be able to demonstrate to them that you do not spam. Be polite. ISPs and companies are perfectly free to block your mail. Attempts to strong-arm a site into accepting your mail are legally and ethically questionable, and will cause far more problems than realize.
  6. Read the bounce to see if you can determine who is serving up the SPEWS blocklist. SPEWS doesn’t publish the data as a blocklist themselves; they leave that to others. As of February 1, 2007, Matthew Sullivan of SORBS has stopped serving the stale SPEWS data. I assume that other sites serve it up as well. If you find that a site is serving up this outdated info from SPEWS, contact them and let them know that the information they’re sharing is out of date. Feel free to point them toward this site. Recommend they follow Matthew's example with regard to nulling out the listings until (if) SPEWS returns.
I hope you find this information helpful. Please feel free to contact me with your comments or feedback. But, please note that I'm unable to consult with you regarding your specific situation -- I've already got a full time day job, and I'm not looking for consulting clients.