It recently came to Nick Renton's notice that his ISP, Telstra (BigPond), had failed to deliver a number of legitimate e-mail messages addressed to him, apparently based on the use of blacklists.
Such non-delivery is apparently quite common. However, it is never advised to either sender or addressee. Nor is the fact of such arbitrary filtering advised to customers even in general terms.
Disapproving of Telstra's unprincipled and outrageous behaviour Nick Renton wrote to the company, saying:
"I did not give you permission to censor mail addressed to me. Who did?"
Telstra replied: "Whilst you personally may not have given BigPond permission to filter your e-mails, BigPond must comply with the ACMA Spam Code of Practice, as do all Australian ISPs. If you disagree to the Spam Code of Practice you can take this matter up directly with the ACMA."
Nick Renton duly contacted the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), but was not even accorded the courtesy of a reply. Clearly ACMA is a useless organisation, badly in need of reform.
But, in any case, there does not seem to be anything in the Code requiring ISPs to suppress e-mails addressed to their customers without their knowledge and consent. Telstra appears to have lied.
Interfering with ordinary mail is a criminal offence. Should not the same principles apply to e-mail?
Following some preliminary correspondence, Nick Renton also addressed certain other questions to Telstra, as set out below.
Disgracefully, as shown in its highly unsatisfactory answers, Telstra is taking no responsibility at all for its immoral and possibly illegal actions.
THE QUESTIONS AND TELSTRA'S RESPONSES
Q. What steps have you taken to ensure that the lists you use
A. BigPond Technical Support is not provided with information pertaining to the reasoning of why Telstra chooses to use the e-mail blacklists they do or other related Telstra business practices and as such cannot provide a definitive response to this question.
Q. Why should your customers have to go to the trouble of writing to the senders of legitimate e-mails about this and why should these senders have to do additional work just to satisfy your whims?
A. It is not the responsibility of BigPond to ensure that other ISPs are monitoring the incidence of unsolicited e-mail coming from their users or their e-mail servers. As such, it is also not the responsibility of BigPond to investigate the blacklisting of other ISPs or place removal requests on their behalf to the administrators of the e-mail blacklists.
Q. How would your customers even know which senders to contact when they have not received the blocked e-mails or even a message from you advising of the blocking?
A. e-mail blacklists are not designed to notify the recipient if an e-mail is blocked. They are designed to notify the sender so that they are able to contact their ISP in order to take action to investigate and resolve the cause of the blacklisting.
SOME FURTHER ASPECTS
"471.1 Theft of mail-receptacles, articles or postal messages
(1) A person is guilty of an offence if:
(a) the person dishonestly appropriates:
(i) a mail-receptacle; or
(ii) an article in the course of post (including an article that appears to have been lost or wrongly delivered by or on behalf of Australia Post or lost in the course of delivery to Australia Post); or
(iii) a postal message; and
(b) the person does so with the intention of permanently depriving another person of the mail-receptacle, article or postal message.
Penalty: Imprisonment for 10 years."
POSTSCRIPT: WHO IS THE REAL ROGUE?
Telstra has labelled the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) a rogue organisation. However, this is a bit rich, when the above facts show that Telstra itself is actually much more of a rogue organisation.
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