This may be the first time you’ve ever heard anyone ask for spam but that’s what I’m doing. We’re so committed to fighting spam originating on our servers that we’re willing to open up the floodgates and invite everyone to send us our spam back. Don’t start just forwarding us your spam willy-nilly, though. I’ll explain more about this later.
This whole idea started with AOL. No matter what you think about AOL, they are actually doing something real to reduce the amount of spam you receive every day. We still have a somewhat mixed relationship with them when it comes to email but at the end of the day I think the way they handle spam coming into their network is effective and I want the rest of the big email providers to do the same thing.
AOL has primarily put the control over what email is allowed to enter their network into the hands of their users. If their users report enough spam originating from a specific server or computer, AOL will temporarily block it, refusing all email for a relatively short period of time. DreamHost has been on the receiving end of that many times and it is annoying to a company in our position, but it has also motivated us to work on reducing spam. Not being able to send email to one of the largest blocks of email users in the world will have that effect!
When we first realized this was how AOL was doing things, we were honestly a bit appalled. “Oh, no! AOL users have the power to blacklist us?”
In addition to using user-powered email blacklists, AOL also sends us copies of every tagged spam they receive from our network. That’s what’s really good about their system and what I want everyone else to emulate. They send us the spams in a specific format to a specific address and we have developed an automated parsing system for them. As soon as we get the spams sent back to us we have cataloged them in a database for later analysis. We then use that data to determine where in our system spam is coming from and automatically stop new spam before it leaves our network, thereby reducing the amount of spam flowing over the Internet.
If the other major email providers (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc) would all do this same thing DreamHost would be able to nearly eliminate all sources of spam on our network. If everyone sent back all spam they received to the originating network and every email provider processed their returned spam automatically like we do, spam itself could be nearly eliminated.
That, in short, is how AOL is reducing the amount of spam you receive little by little. That also explains why we’re asking for our own spam back. If you are a sizable email provider and you would like to join in the fun, contact me and we’ll get started. If you are an invidivual and would like to be involved, tell your email provider to get in touch with us.