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        But It Wasn't Supposed To BE Like This!

        © 2013 Elena Fawkner

        Sacked my webhost this week.  What a pain.  As many of you
        who are customers of a certain webhost who shall remain
        nameless know (we will refer to it as "WH"), a few days ago
        hackers managed to gain access to WH's supposedly super-
        secure state-of-the-art mail servers and spam half the
        world.

        As a result, a database in New Zealand added WH to its
        blacklist of servers that it deems guilty of relaying spam
        email.  Consequently, many perfectly innocent clients of WH
        found themselves unable to send or receive email for several
        days.  It is not known if the 'lost' email will ever be
        recovered.  This little episode has cost many businesses
        many thousands of dollars in lost business.

        Interestingly, it seems from the posts to the WH bulletin
        board that most of the affected customers were really quite
        understanding of WH's predicament and took the position that
        the blackban was not its fault.  Taking a less charitable
        view myself, I would have thought that some criticism could
        have fairly been leveled at WH for the fact that hackers
        were even able to gain access to its servers but that did
        not seem to preoccupy the vast majority of posters to the
        WH board.  Rather, all they wanted to know was when they
        could expect to have their email back.

        What I find truly staggering about all of this is that a
        DATABASE, without ANY human intervention, could be allowed
        to wreak such havoc on so many businesses without there
        being any sort of mechanism in place to determine, by a
        process of reason and judgment, whether the so-called
        'guilty' party had, indeed, committed the crime of which it
        was accused and convicted without trial.

        In law, there is such a thing as natural justice.  This
        means that the accused shall have the opportunity to hear
        the allegations made against him AND, more importantly, the
        opportunity to respond to those allegations and raise
        relevant facts in defence or mitigation of those
        allegations, if soundly based.  Had WH been afforded natural
        justice in this case, it would have pleaded complete
        innocence of the charges leveled against it, that plea would
        have been investigated and not disproved, and WH and its
        customers would have been spared the frustration and
        economic damage caused by the effective shutdown of the
        most crucially important method of internet communication.

        How can this be allowed to happen?  Surely someone must be
        held accountable.  WH for failing to effectively secure its
        mail servers or the nameless faces behind the database?
        Must the anonymity and anarchic nature of the internet
        necessarily lead to a lack of accountability?

        Can you imagine what would happen in the offline world if
        an automated watchdog of, say, the telecommunications
        industry disconnected the telephone service of the clients
        of a carrier who was unfortunate enough to be the unwitting
        victim of an illegal line tap?  Outrage!  Of course, such a
        situation would never be allowed to occur.  Industry
        regulators around the developed world have put in place
        systems and procedures to investigate such complaints.  Only
        where the charge is proven can action be taken against the
        villain of the piece.  And most certainly, the innocent
        customers of the telecommunications carrier would not have
        to suffer the inconvenience and injustice of having their
        service disconnected in punishment for a crime they did not
        commit.

        So why does natural justice seem to be such an alien concept
        in the online world?  What is it about the culture of the
        internet that seems to assume the need for procedural
        fairness, the fundamental justice we all have the right to
        expect in the offline world, can just be dispensed with?
        And, just as importantly, why are we so quick to accept it
        as an immutable fact of internet life when we would all be
        rushing to our attorneys indignantly crying "foul", "foul",
        if it happened to us offline?

        A perfect example of this phenomenon is the propensity of
        many ISPs to cancel email accounts of users who are merely
        ACCUSED of spamming.  I have seen some ISP user agreements
        that say that if the ISP receives more than three complaints
        of spamming against you, your account will be automatically
        cancelled!  Excuse me?  How unfair is that?  To never know
        of a complaint, to never know who lodges it, to never have
        the opportunity to present your side of the case.  You're
        just closed down.  Never mind that the person making the
        complaint was a malicious vandal whose idea of a hobby is to
        fabricate spamming complaints and have legitimate businesses
        put out of business or at least seriously inconvenienced.

        Just WHAT is going on here?  It's like living in a parallel
        universe.  Why aren't we all outraged?  Why aren't we all
        righteously indignant that our rights are being trampled in
        this way?  Why are we so meekly accepting of this most
        blatant injustice?

        I understand the anarchic nature of the internet.  I
        understand its culture and its rhythms and its wildness and
        its ferocious energy and its incredible ability to
        continuously reinvent itself.  But the internet is merely a
        technological phenomenon after all is said and done.  It is
        not organic, it is not another life form of which we should
        stand in awe.  It is man-made.  It is not alive.  It does
        not breathe or bleed.  It should not be a law unto itself,
        accountable to no-one just because it's the almighty
        INTERNET.

        Behind the internet are people, just like you and me.
        People whose actions have consequences.  No-one should be
        permitted to sabotage another's business without sanction
        and no-one should be able to inflict deliberate damage and
        shield behind the lack of accountability that is becoming
        all too easily accepted as an implacable fact of internet
        life.  Despite all the analogies to the contrary, this is
        NOT the wild wild west where gunslingers can take it upon
        themselves to round up and lynch a scoundrel without giving
        him a fair trial first.

        So, you may ask, why did I sack my poor, innocent webhost?
        Simple.  I had a problem with my email this week, unrelated
        to the current disaster.  I have had more than a few of
        these sorts of problems over recent weeks.  Each time I gave
        WH every chance to fix the problem.  I was patient and
        reasonable and understanding.  Unfortunately, having given
        WH the opportunity to turn my dissatisfaction into satisfaction
        and justify my decision to pay a premium for what WH led me
        to believe would be superior customer service, I was met
        with little more than automated email messages every hour
        assuring me that my problem was being worked on.

        When, after three days of this, my problem STILL wasn't fixed,
        I thought back to all the other little problems WH has
        caused me over the past couple of months and finally decided
        enough was enough.

        So I have changed webhosts.  You see, unlike faceless,
        personality-free databases and automated technical customer
        service departments, I am human and I don't forgive easily.
        And I never, EVER, forget.

        _________________________

        Elena Fawkner is editor of A Home-Based Business Online ... practical ideas, resources and strategies for your home-based or online business.

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