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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

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

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

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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