[cryptography] OT: SORBS is not censorship [Was: John Gilmore: Cryptography list is censoring my emails]

Jeffrey Goldberg jeffrey at goldmark.org
Thu Jan 1 14:03:13 EST 2015

On Dec 31, 2014, at 5:16 AM, John Young <jya at pipeline.com> wrote:

> http://cryptome.org/2014/12/gilmore-crypto-censored.htm

I would say that I am sorry for this off-topic rant, but if I were sufficiently
sorry, I wouldn’t be sending it.

I used to be a postmaster for a medium-sized university and
worked as a consultant helping small and medium sized organizations
set up their email. I’ve even managed to piss off enough spammers to
have been targeted for attacks by them. (This is all long ago.)

A DNS-based Real Time Blocking List (RBL), like sorbs.net, does not do any
censorship or blocking itself. It merely publishes a list of IP addresses
based on published criteria. Individual email administrators set up their systems
to consult that list and take action as they see fit.

So if is listed in SORBS (unless it is listed in error, which
can also happen) then it means at least some of the criteria for listing. This
can include spam being repeatedly sent from it (with the owner’s consent or 
otherwise), or hosting pages advertised by spam.

Typically an attempt has been made to contact the system or network

Now postmaster at example.com may chose to not accept SMTP connections
from such parts of the network. Alice is free to send or support spam
on her part of the network, and Bob is free to refuse to accept SMTP connections
from Alice’s bit of the network. 

Now some sites and networks offer “bullet proof hosting”. That is, the network
admins and hosting providers there simply send abuse reports to /dev/null. As
a consequence a great deal of net abuse comes from such portions of the network.

A postmaster using SORBs, Bob, is no more censorship than running a firewall is.

If Alice thinks that her network is listed incorrectly (does not meet the SORBS
listed criteria) there is a process for reporting that to SORBS.

If she thinks that the SORBS listing criteria should not be used for blocking
SMTP connections in general, then she can contact Bob, who chose to
block based on SORBS listing. In this case Bob is the administrator of

If Alice thinks that an exception should be made for her system or email, she
can ask Bob to whitelist her otherwise blacklisted net.



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