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How did Chatmag, an Internet Chat Directory, become involved with SPEWS, the Internet equivalent of school yard bullies? In early May 2003 we had joined forces with IRC/Unity, a group of IRC Server Administrators dedicated to fighting the Fizzer Worm (See story of 18 May 2003).

One of our emails posted to the IRC/Unity group had bounced with a notation that we were blacklisted by another Blacklist, that uses the SPEWS database. Not knowing who or what SPEWS was, we investigated. On the SPEWS web site, we found a link to a Usenet group, operated by SPEWS, which is the only contact for SPEWS, (their domain name information has been falsified) and posted a notice that we had been unfairly blacklisted by SPEWS.

Chatmag is currently hosted by Burst.net, which had been blacklisted by SPEWS for some time. Until this incident, we were unaware of any problem, and had heard little of SPEWS.

Reading some of the comments posted, and after receiving several emails from SPEWS supporters, we determined that the tactics employed by SPEWS most closely resembles that used by organized crime to intimidate victims.  SPEWS contends that anyone using a Hosting Provider which hosts a spammer  is as guilty of spamming as the spammer themselves, and blacklists entire blocks of IP's, including Chatmag's in the case of the blacklist of Burst.net.

Chatmag does not spam, and operates one email list, for internal use only.  In 1998 the idea of email marketing our Internet Directory was brought up and immediately rejected.  We are in no way linked to spammers, regardless of the contention by SPEWS that as long as we are using Burst.net as our dedicated server host, we are as guilty of spamming as the spammers.  Our long term plans were to move to Chatmag owned and operated servers this year, however we have decided to stay on Burst.net for the foreseeable future, in addition to opening our server center in Gainesville, Florida.  We will not be intimidated by organizations or individuals that employ the RICO-like tactics that SPEWS espouses.

Judging by the recent turn of events regarding the demise of Osirusoft, I believe that SPEWS days are numbered.  At present, they are seeking a new host for their site.  Given that SPEWS has blacklisted a majority of web hosts, simply finding a host that they have not angered at some time in the past is going to be a monumental task.  And it is doubtful any web host will want to take on SPEWS, in fear of possible litigation, or other problems associated with hosting SPEWS.

Terry Gilsenan and SPEWS

I did some research into SPEWS, and visited their web site, www.spews.org where we found the reference to our entry, and contact information for SPEWS. The only contact information as you know is via a Usenet group, commonly referred to as NANAE.

I posted a notice on NANAE that we had been blocklisted by SPEWS, and that we felt that it was not a block as a result of anything Chatmag had done. The responses we received, both in the NANAE group, and via private emails, led us to question a group that would use such tactics, and remain themselves unaccountable.

One word that I found being used regularly was "cartooney" also written as "cart00ney", and used to mean a legal threat against SPEWS. We did a google on both words, coming up with the web site
http://www.cart00ney.org and registered to Terry Gilsenan.  Visiting the cart00ney.org site, we read the FAQ page, which in part states:
"FAQ
Q. Hey, my domain is on the list, how do I get off this list?
A. Read the details record for your domain, and publish in the same
forum of the original threat, a complete retraction, then post to the
N.A.N.A.E news group stating the actions taken, and then wait." 

The "N.A.N.A.E" is hyper linked to the exact same Google Group that SPEWS references on their site as a "contact" for SPEWS.

Cart00ney.org lists persons or companies that have made legal threats in the N.A.N.A.E list. Does this have anything to do with SPEWS? This "cart00ney" points directly to SPEWS. If Terry Gilsenan has nothing to do with SPEWS, why would he maintain that blocklist?

Cart00ney.org is also Copyright 2002 wewak.net which is registered to an entity in New Guinea, and all contact information is in "tok pisin" or pidgen english.  Several postings refer to wewak.net as administrating SPEWS. (Note: Terry Gilsenan has changed the Whois information for wewak.net and posted himself as Administrative and Technical Contact, and with all other evidence present, clearly is aligning himself as the administrator of SPEWS. Update 6 Sept. 2003 Wewak.net is now registered through Domains by Proxy, a third party registration service designed to hide from public view the true registrar.  Wewak.net DNS still points to weblistix.com.)

A posting in the Google group seems to point the finger away from any connection between SPEWS, cart00ney.org and wewak, and sent by an administrator at weblistix.com Weblistix is registered to Terry Gilsenan, and in this particular posting, the "administrator" mentions forwarding a legal threat (cart00ney) to the N.A.N.A.E group, and cart00ney.org, as if it were a separate entity, when in fact it is registered to him.

One remark on that page is particularly curious, "The Spews.org domain does not belong to a client of ours, I apparently belongs to a client of our client wewak.net." I'm at a loss as to the meaning of that, but it seems to give the reader the impression that weblistix does not know who they belong to. It may also be a typo, the "I" reads more clearly as "it".

The cart00ney.org site maintains a block list of legal threats made in
Google groups, most originally posted on N.A.N.A.E One of many we found in their block list was clearly sent to N.A.N.A.E

Again, the Cart00ney.org/Gilsenan connection. The cart00ney.org
blocklist contains links to details, a random sample shows the majority of legal complaints were posted to N.A.N.A.E. An interesting side note regarding SPEWS and cart00ney.org, in the SPEWS FAQ, there is a notation:

"Q32: Are you associated with any other SPEWS domains?
A32: Nope, SPEWS.ORG is our only site. We have no idea what any others are."

Odd that both SPEWS and cart00ney.org mention posting on N.A.N.A.E. yet SPEWS has no knowledge of cart00ney.org  A post of 16 Mar. 2002 by Terry Gilsenan demonstrates otherwise:

The line: "whats the bet that next is the cart00ney?" by Terry clearly
points to a connection between cart00ney.org, his registered site, and SPEWS.

The wewak.net connection. It seems that most every post in N.A.N.A.E points to wewak.net as the "host" of SPEWS. One in particular mentions wewak under a DDoS attack, and suggesting wewak.net to move SPEWS to another server.

Also contained in that particular post is a mention of Terry Gilsenan
speaking english. The wewak.net registration is not in english, but "tok pisin", commonly used in New Guinea. (contact information changed as of 27 August 2003) Does Terry Gilsenan know "tok pisin"? This post confirms that fact.

Cart00ney.org is registered to Terry Gilsenan. Cart00ney.org is
copyright 2002 wewak.net. Also, on Terry Gilsenan's site home page, it states:

"Providing Systems Support in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and into Asia.". Fission-chips.com.au is registered to Terry Gilsenan, and has business dealings with New Guinea, home of wewak.net.

Terry Gilsenan also seems to know quite a bit regarding spam, as seen on several posts in various groups.

Neohapsis.  Referring to "Joe Jobs".
Neohapsis.  Referring to blocking spam.
Neohapsis.  Referring to a spamming domain.

Alexa ranking for SPEWS.org also points to Wewak.net. (Note: Alexa has since changed this page).
 

Is Terry Gilsenan SPEWS? All that I have found points to a definite connection between himself, wewak.net, cart00ney.org and SPEWS. It is my opinion that Terry Gilsenan is the administrator of SPEWS.

We are as much against spam as any other reputable company,
and do our part to educate Internet users to the dangers of spam/scam emails.  All of our received emails are held for inspection by representatives of any legitimate business wishing to contest our findings.  The key is accountability, which SPEWS disregards.

The original concept of a block list is workable. However, the SPEWS "collateral damage" method is at best unworkable, and at worst, a violation of RICO Section 1951.  I think that Terry Gilsenan set up SPEWS, and without a clear business outline, found that SPEWS got out of control.  A SPEWS type blacklist should follow a few principles, taking perhaps the Underwriters Laboratory or Consumer Reports models as a guide.

First, there must be accountability, which means the organization must 
remain apart from any commercial entity, and be easily contacted by 
regular channels, not in a Usenet News Group.

Second, there should be an arbitration process, with perhaps an 
unassociated third party as a referee.  Alleged spammers should be 
able to refute the allegations, in a rational, mature manner.

Third, if an alleged spammer is found to be spamming, then their 
domain IP could be added to a blacklist, but no other IP associated
with a web host. In my case, my site is hosted on Burst.net  Several 
years ago, there were two or three spam outfits renting servers from 
Burst.  This information was passed on to SPEWS, and over the past 
year, SPEWS blacklisted every other Burst.net customer, myself 
included.  For the alleged spam sins of a few, over 15,000 separate 
domains had their emails bounced by the SPEWS blacklist.

Fourth.  SPEWS argument regarding allocation of IP addresses.  SPEWS maintains that if you move into an IP range that also holds or held spammers you are guilty of association, and your IP will be blocked.  Their argument is that it is a "bad neighborhood". Even if the IP had been used at one time by spammers, if you are not a spammer, you should not be punished for owning the IP.  If you were to purchase the property at 7244 South Prairie Avenue in Chicago, once owned by Alphonse Capone, would this then make you a gangster, or simply a person that owns property with a checkered past?  SPEWS argument that owning an IP once used by spammers is invalid.

The primary reason I devoted my time to tracking down the
Administrator of SPEWS was that I saw that if left unchecked, SPEWS 
would go further out of control.  In recent months, SPEWS has managed 
to anger a good number of persons with the ability to mount a DDoS 
attack against both SPEWS and Osirusoft, a provider of the SPEWS 
blacklist.  I saw this as an escalation that had an impact beyond the 
simple email blocks, and believe that in bringing SPEWS into the 
light, SPEWS will cease publication of their blacklist, or face what 
is sure to be a large number of lawsuits by affected companies and 
individuals.  It is well known that SPEWS kept their identity secret 
in order to avoid lawsuits, and with this revelation, they have no 
choice but to either act responsibly, or cease operations.

In going through the Usenet archives, I found many instances of thinly 
veiled threats by SPEWS supporters against alleged spammers and 
the "collateral damage" casualties, including one remark that
"just be glad noones firebombed your NOC".  (The NOC referenced is Burst.net where Chatmag is hosted, I take this as a threat to Chatmag itself). I could see that if left as-is, there would most likely be real physical harm done to either an 
alleged spammer or SPEWS supporter, and this also motivated me to act.
 

Contacting Terry Gilsenan

Administrative Contact:
       Gilsenan, Terry  thg@fission-chips.com.au
       Weblistix
       5/149 English St.
      Cairns, QLD 4870
       Australia
       +61(7)4032-4454

Terry Gilsenan and the others involved had a good concept, however, blacklisting thousands of innocent domains and even Nations goes way beyond reason.  It is time for SPEWS to be brought out into the light, rethink their methods, and formulate a course of action that would help stem the tide of spam, while being held accountable for their actions.

11 June 2004 SPEWS in recent months has slipped far behind other blocking list services, and currently has little if any real effect on email spam.  Checking the NANAE Google Group shows very few "collateral damage" complaints, and little activity from spammers complaining about being listed in SPEWS.  SPEWS will in all probability live on for a time, and then like all other poorly conceived notions, fade into the Internet history books.

30 December 2004 Google Groups and SPEWS.  The recent changes at Google Groups, demonstrates that SPEWS has no reliable method of contact.  Most people responding to a SPEWS listing post their messages on NANAE, as per the SPEWS FAQ for contacting them.  With the changes at Google Groups, SPEWS must devise a more secure method of contact. Should Google decide to discontinue the Groups, SPEWS will have no alternative but to create their own dedicated Discussion Forum, on their server.

2008. SPEWS is no more.

Proposal to SPEWS, first published in NANAE.

Leadlistbuilder.com and SPEWS on the same web server.

Attempting to access Leadlistbuilder.com redirects to SPEWS.org 

A former spam site, with several mentions in SPEWS, now a part of SPEWS?

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