Posts tagged “whitelist”

Blogs can help, part 2

I had previously blogged about how a kind soul at AOL saw my frustrations with ending the torrent of antiSpam messages. Today, another kind soul wrote me. They had seen the complaint, they had investigated on their own and thought that things were worked out, but wanted to check back with me.

I’m so pleased when this happens; I imagine for one of these two folks, if not both, handling this problem when I contacted them through official channels fell within the scope of their job, and I don’t understand why it wasn’t solvable that way, but again I must salute the proactive surfers who are contacting people on their own and troubleshooting outside the system.

Blogs can help?

I have previously blogged about my troubles with AOL sending me THOUSANDS of bounce messages intended for my ISP’s admin folk, and how they would not take me off their list despite my calling and emailing and following all their rules, etc.

I guess that blog got noticed by someone at AOL AntiSpam Operations who wrote me directly and offered to help. He told me that he’s taken me off the distribution list for the bounces (and I believe that’s correct) and apologized for my frustration. It’s terrible when the normal channels break down but it’s great there are proactive individuals out there who obviously care about how their systems are running and how they are impacting people and are willing to reach out and solve a problem.

Thanks to the individual who took time and care to resolve this, and boo to AOL for not having a proper infrastructure to allow their staff to take care of these things in the normal course of their work.

I [hate] AOL

I run a few mailing lists, the most active being Undercover, a Rolling Stones discussion group that goes back to 1992. In this era of spam and spam counter-measures, there are lots of problems in getting email through (I had a client, for example, that couldn’t get email from me at all; fortunately they were able to figure that out and not assume I was just ignoring them!). A discussion group that can generate dozens of messages in a short period of time is easily flagged by automated software as a spambot of some sort.

Say what you want about the discussions on Undercover, they aren’t spam. But they were getting flagged as spam (we didn’t know that; we just started seeing hours and hours of delays, sometimes messages being held for 20 hours before being delivered), as our ISP suggested (it is hard to track down email problems – is it between the sender and the mailing list host, or the mailing host and the sender? Or elsewhere)?

The ISP suggested I whitelist Undercover – go through some administrivia to get AOL to recognize it is a valid sender so that it wouldn’t get auto-flagged as spam. I filled out a bunch of forms, including agreeing to have certain types of bounce messages sent back to me. I didn’t follow all of it; it was speaking a language best understood by someone that operates an ISP and has access to the email software that UNIX etc. systems are using. I’m just a customer with a web-interface, I’m not a sys-admin. So I signed up and was approved.

The email delays (to AOL, at least) stopped.

The bounce messages started coming. TONS and TONS. And what I realized was that I had signed up as the whitelist contact for the entire ISP. Not just and the Undercover email, but anyone who is hosted at my ISP that sends something to AOL – I was the guy they were going to let know about it. In fact what I think is happening that anytime there is spam sent from anyone at my ISP, every single AOL customer who flags it as spam in their account, well that comes back to me.

You can’t believe how much of this I received.

I asked my ISP. No answer – I was starting to realize that I had taken on the whitelist responsibility that THEY should have, for the entire ISP.

Finally after months and several thousand messages, I contacted AOL. I emailed them – they have a lot of info on their support pages for people at other sites trying to email or run approved lists, etc. They always want you to email them at No response. No response. Finally I called and got right through. No problem, they told me, your ISP should be the whitelist contact definitely not you. Email us and say X, y, and Z, and they’ll take you off within 24 to 72 hours.

I’ve emailed them 5 times over a month, and it’s not working. I’m still getting these messages.

What has happened is that my ISP has finally (after numerous requests from me) fixed whatever was enabling one single user to be the source for all this spam. It was obvious – you could see on every single bounce message from AOL what user was causing the problem. It was all from the same customer of the ISP. So plugging that hole did reduce drastically the number of warnings I was getting.

Until today – someone else is spamming AOL customers and every one of them is flagging it as spam and every one of those is coming back to me. In a four hour period I have received 453 of these messages and as I type this, more are coming in.

Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope. Seriously, I don’t know what to do. AOL won’t take me off the list – when I email they ignore me and when I phone they tell me to email. It’s not really bothering anyone at my ISP and they won’t take any action. And this has been going on for months now.

I [hate] AOL. I also [hate] my ISP (meanwhile it’s almost time to renew my hosting account there for

Update: 6 hours later it’s now more than 3000 messages that have been bounced back to me

Update: I’m sure it totally more than 4000 messages. My ISP claims that they have signed on as the whitelist contact for AOL, and I finally discover (with their suggestion) that I can filter unwanted emails directly at the ISP so they don’t come through – yeah, they are still being sent by AOL but they won’t ever be delivered to me.

I [hate] Yahoo

Yahoo is the latest incompetent organization for support.

I’m having very frustrating problems with my Yahoo email account – not the free stuff some people have; SBCGlobal/Yahoo is my ISP, I pay for ’em.

I really only use that account for Undercover, the Rolling Stones mailing list I run. The problems became much clearer when list traffic picked up dramatically over the last few days. Email from members – myself included – was taking hours to get to the distribution list. I went through a process to “whitelist” with Yahoo, but they rejected us, since it’s a mailing list, not an ISP (or something? I don’t quite understand what the problem was – they want it all to trace back to a unique IP address – ironically I’m having almost the opposte problem with AOL, but that’s a separate post).

Here’s what they told me

Since your emails are not sent from a dedicated IP address used solely for your mailings, we cannot systematically exempt your email from our SpamGuard technology.

Please be aware that Yahoo! Mail users are able to set their own preferences for the manner in which they receive your mailings. If the recipients of your messages want to ensure they receive your emails in their Inbox, you may want to ask them to set up a filter in Yahoo! Mail specifically for your emails, or have them add your email address(es) to their Yahoo! Address Book.

The problem goes back; I actually had problems with all the admin messages the list software generates being tagged as “bulk” by Yahoo and no matter how many times I tagged them as “not spam” they’d still end up as bulk. I finally gave up on their filtering software and had them just deliver all the bulk email to me. I couldn’t override their insistence that it was all bulk. Nothing like having something like that out of your own control.

But anyway now my own messages are ending up in the bulk folder. When I post to my own list, it ends up as bulk, and all the other subscribers are finding the same thing.

I put my own address in my Yahoo address book. Which makes no sense, but okay. When I send email from my client software (i.e., I use Eudora, but the same idea as using Outlook) it ends up as Bulk. When I sent it from their web interface, it doesn’t. That seems totally weird.

I responded to the whitelist rejection with this info. Today I got this response.

Subject: Re: Customer Support Request Site Change

Dear SBC Internet Customer,
Our Support Request site has recently changed.
Please submit your question or comment via our new online form available at
Thank you for contacting SBC Yahoo!

Why the heck am I getting email from Ameritech, a company I’ve never done business with? I clicked on their link and am given an opportunity to contact support. And then it asks for my password. I get really nervous – isn’t this a standard phishing technique? I spend a few minutes convincing myself the site is legit, and go through the process of entering all my contact info and then typing up the problem in detail, and I hit submit.

“We’re sorry; there’s been a techincal problem. Please wait a few minutes and try again.”


And when I hit “back” on the browser, all the data I’ve typed in is gone.

This is so incredibly frustrating. Really hair-tearing out stuff. Argh. Yahoo, you sux!

Update: Maybe they did process my response (after that billing@ameritech message telling me they didn’t) because I just received this


Thank you for contacting Yahoo! Customer Care.

We appreciate the information you have provided and are looking into the
delivery issue you reported. Please be assured that we’re continuing to
take steps to make Yahoo! Mail the best email service on the planet.

Thank you again for contacting Yahoo! Customer Care.

Update: Seems that my emails getting flagged as spam may have stopped as of May 16, 3 days after I first posted this? I never heard back about any resolution, but I notice that was the point at which the symptoms ceased. Who knows?


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