Home M3AAWG Blog Pioneers of M3AAWG: John Levine, M3AAWG Expert Advisor
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M3AAWG is exploring the historical journey that has shaped our organization for two decades. Each month in 2024, the pioneers of M3AAWG will appear in this blog to share our collective story. These are the trailblazers, the innovators, and the champions for action in M3AAWG! This month’s interview is with John Levine who has served as a M3AAWG Senior Technical Advisor and now Expert Advisor. He has been active in the Awards, Public Policy, and Academic Committees, and has helped write many of M3’s Best Practices and Public Policy Comments documents.

Levine is currently a member of the ICANN Security and Stability Advisory Committee, is active in IETF standards processes, and is an independent consultant and expert witness.

Here is our interview with the M3AAWG pioneer, John Levine.

How long have you been with M3AAWG?

I think I came to the second or third meeting, when MAAWG was still run by Openwave, and have been to most meetings since then.

What inspired you to engage and contribute to M3AAWG?

It was a place to meet interesting people working on problems I care about. It still is.

What would you say M3AAWG’s most important contribution to the industry has been over the past 20 years?

Mail operators have worked together to make the rules clearer about what is and is not legitimate mail, and that the rules really boil down to sending mail that people want to get.

What would you consider the biggest change in M3AAWG from its early days to now?

I see two. Early on we were less clear about who MAAWG was for, leading to things like spammers showing up and trying to bribe postmasters. (For some reason, mail order steaks were popular, leading to “box of meat” memes.) Equally important, we have made our behavior standards clear, so of the meetings I go to, M3 is consistently the one with the most women present and active.

What would you consider the most significant challenge M3AAWG has faced in its 20-year history?

MAAWG was originally just for mailbox operators and their suppliers. As senders started to come it’s been an ongoing challenge to balance interests and remember that what may seem important to some parties is very not important to others.

What is one of your best memories or proudest moments with M3AAWG?

Getting the Mary Litynski Award, of course.

What role has M3AAWG played in your career?

I’ve met a lot of people who I’ve later worked with, and also brought some reality checks to my work in the IETF and ICANN.

What advice do you have for someone getting started in M3AAWG?

I tell newcomers that M3 is a very “flat” organization with little hierarchy, so it is always OK to walk up to people you don’t know and talk with them about topics of mutual interest.

What is your greatest fear/hope for the online security/anti-abuse industry?

It’s dismaying that most of the issues we’re dealing with today are the same ones we were dealing with a decade ago, spam, malware, phishing, account takeovers. Some of the details have changed but we are not making a lot of progress.


People like John Levine established the foundation for M3AAWG’s efforts, building a legacy of work that has made a significant impact in the fight against online abuse over the past two decades. Levine, together with M3AAWG peers within the industry, created a trusted network to share diverse skill sets and information that aided in solving problems and creating potent strategies for combating online abuse. We are prepared to develop best practices and techniques to overcome today’s challenges because of the strength of this network.  We extend our sincere thanks to John Levine and recognize that his contributions have helped us to see our future: a world free of online abuse.


The views expressed in DM3Z are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect M3AAWG policy.