11 February 2017

Listed on APEWS: what to do (and what definitely not to do)

APEWS is unorthodox

Email blacklists often encourage holders of listed IP addresses to request removal when the abuse problem that caused the listing has been dealt with. However, not all lists work like that. APEWS is a list that does not publish contact information and specifically states that its operators do not want to be contacted. Unfortunately, the APEWS website gives somewhat vague advice to listees, and this has caused a Usenet newsgroup to be overrun with misplaced requests for removal.

APEWS also operates a very aggressive listing policy. The fact that your IP address is listed does not imply that it would have been a source of spam or other abuse. APEWS paints with a broad roller, listing extremely large chunks of net space, even covering entire continents. Because of this, anyone who uses APEWS as a blacklist is likely to block lots of non-abusive mail as well. A private person running an email server for his or her family or small business and receiving mail from only a few senders may be able to get away with that. However, an Internet service provider who would start to block mail based on APEWS would quickly receive loads of complaints from its customers.

A listing is just a listing

If your IP address is listed on APEWS, the first thing to do is to verify whether the listing actually has any effect on you. You may have looked up your IP address on a website and found out that it is listed on APEWS. This does not necessarily mean that anyone would be rejecting your mail because of APEWS. As I explained above, few email providers can get away with using APEWS as a blacklist. In short, merely being listed on APEWS means nothing. Do not allow yourself to be tricked into a frenzy because someone has added your IP address to a list.

Read the bounce message carefully

You may have received a non-delivery report stating that an email message you sent has been rejected. Do not jump to the conclusion that this would have anything to do with APEWS. There are many useful DNSBLs, and email server operators also use local blacklists that they compile themselves. The only case in which you should assume that your mail was rejected because of APEWS is when the rejection message specifically mentions APEWS (e.g. ‘blocked using l2.apews.org’).

Do not write removal requests

If you do receive a non-delivery report stating that your mail was rejected because of an APEWS listing, you may think that the problem should be solved by contacting APEWS and requesting removal. However, APEWS does not want your removal requests. The APEWS website states that ‘bugging’ APEWS maintainers will lead to escalations.

If you post removal requests to discussion forums such as Usenet newsgroups, you run the risk of being considered rude and ignorant. You may even experience so-called spite listings: people who run local blacklists may list your networks because they consider you dangerously clueless.

Work it out with your recipient

I assume that you were not trying to send spam. In other words, the recipient would have wanted to receive your message. The best way to solve the problem is to contact the recipient through some other means: call him or her on the phone, or send a fax or a letter. Explain that using APEWS as a blacklist causes the recipient to lose wanted mail and that there are other DNSBLs better suited to blacklist usage. Ask the recipient to stop using APEWS entirely or to create a whitelist entry allowing your mail to pass through despite the APEWS listing. It does not matter that your IP address will remain listed on APEWS: a very large proportion of all existing IP addresses are listed there, and still email generally flows along quite nicely.