Date: 25 Feb 1998
Date: Wed, 18 Feb 1998 11:57:35
From: Chuck Ambrus ChuckBA@compuserve.com
Subject: Cybersitters pagan blocking
I sent an email out telling about Cybersitter. I have found the article and thought I would send it too. Just so you know the actual story.
Write a Complaint, Get Emailbombed
Solid Oak is under fire from a woman who says the maker of Cybersitter Web filtering software launched an email attack against her after she sent it a critical message. Company officials deny sending Sarah Salls an emailbomb, but say she belongs to a group that has targeted the firm and was asking for trouble.
Sarah Salls, a 27-year-old Web designer, says she sent four emails to Solid Oak last Wednesday accusing the company of carrying out censorship through its filtering software. After the email was rejected by several Solid Oak email accounts - including support, feedback, and CEO Brian Milburn's personal account, Salls says, she was emailbombed on Thursday.
She says her account received more than 800 emails from firstname.lastname@example.org, quoting her letter with the subject line "re: your crap" and a message "Do not send us any more e-mail!"
"It seemed like they were being immature about criticisms of their software," said Salls. "Needless to say, I was a little irate."
Although Solid Oak initially denied any knowledge of the emails, officials now say they were the result of a "frustrated technical support employee." The company also said that Salls sent 12 emails, not four, and her messages constituted harassment.
"The person mentioned is not currently a customer, runs a Web site promoting witchcraft and paganism, and would obviously not be a potential Cybersitter user," Milburn said via email."She is an admitted member of a group that has been engaged in a campaign of organized harassment against us for 14 months."
The "emailbomb" is, in part, a continuation of Solid Oak's longtime war with the Peacefire organization, which was started by teenager Bennett Haselton to discuss filtering systems and their relationship to morality and censorship. Cybersitter, for example, blocks homosexual and feminist organizations' sites.
Salls said she sent multiple emails only after her initial emails, which identified her affiliation with Peacefire, were rejected. Milburn confirmed that any email sent to Solid Oak with mentions of Peacefire or its founder is routinely bounced.
The Cybersitter software blocks Peacefire's Web site and, in at least one case, a story about the criticism leveled against Cybersitter. An article that ran in CNET's News.com last Friday about the Solid Oak emailbomb is now being blocked. A visit to the story using Cybersitter turned up the labels "NETPORN," "gay rights," "annoy.com," "adult" and "now.org" - but no story.
"When you're talking about Solid Oak software, there's no point in even discussing how it's weird or ironic or doesn't make sense - everyone knows that already," said Peacefire founder Haselton. "The question is whether they did something illegal this time."
In a semantic twist, Solid Oak also argues that the 400 emails it admits to sending don't constitute an emailbomb; and when asked to elucidate the difference between an emailbomb and 400 emails, company spokesperson Marc Kanter said, "a mailbomb would be an anonymous posting when everything would happen at once, this was 400 individual email replies from unique IP addresses."
Milburn provided this clarification: "Emailbombs have been typically continuous and anonymous; there was no attempt to disguise who this thing was coming from."
But according to MCI - the upstream provider for Sall's Internet service provider, Valinet - this attack is indeed being considered an emailbomb, albeit a small one. The matter is "being investigated," said Robert Hoskins, an MCI spokesperson.
This incident also isn't the first complaint that has arisen about Solid Oak's alleged email responses to critics. Several Peacefire members (including Haselton and Lindsay Haisley) have complained of receiving four-megabyte to five-megabyte junk files in response to criticism they sent to Solid Oak email addresses.
Milburn says the company initiated a response program for a short period last year called "Terminator" - through which critical emails sent to Solid Oak would receive a reply demanding that the sender stop sending email to the company. If they responded to the Terminator, they would receive a 500k Zip file of junk.
"They replied to an automated account that we told them not to reply to; they did it to themselves," said Milburn, chuckling.
Milburn said he personally receives "hundreds" of messages from Peacefire, and that his company will not respond to any criticism leveraged by its members. The average Peacefire member is 15 years old and, Milburn said, since kids aren't Solid Oak's customers, their complaints just don't count.
"They aren't of an age that they can make a wise decision about things like that; they're also at the age where they're hackers, and things like that," Milburn said. "They seem to think that on the Internet they're the same as everyone else, and that they can demand that we respond to them."
Milburn said Salls is "entitled to her opinions," and though Solid Oak doesn't "condone" the mass of email the company directed at her, he believes that she asked for it. "You have to use some common sense. Was she interested in the software, or was she trying to cause a problem?"
Salls said her ISP, Valinet, is consulting both its lawyers and upstream provider MCI about the incident.
"It's so unprofessional - all companies are going to get some kind of criticism of their product at some point or another. It goes with the territory," said Salls, who calls Solid Oaks' allegations "laughable." "I just want to bring some awareness to this, and I guess I'll just have to use my big mouth."[crossroads/remembrance/_private/remembrance_aftr.htm]