I am glad to hear that you have had quite a bit of success working on Upwork. I get it that you have been using "canned" cover letters (proposals), and this has worked for you.
But, yes, you will be penalized by Upwork for doing so. There will be automated spam warnings, which you might see some times, and clients may see your applications flagged as copy-and-paste proposals.
You specifical said that you are an "exception to the rule."
Here is why this won't work, and why you won't get your wish and be granted an exemption or have this system of checking for canned proposals eliminated or modified to better fit the way you want to work:
There are millions of contractors on Upwork. They send millions of job proposals (nee applications).
Upwork leaders notice that a lot of clients are annoyed by a lot of really bad copy-and-pasted proposals from a lot of incompetent contractors who are taking a shotgun approach to applying for jobs. They basically apply for jobs blindly and they use the same inane cover letter over and over.
Now, keep in mind that clients are Upwork's customber base. That's who pays the bills. Upwork doesn't want to annoy clients. They don't want clients to think that contractors here are a bunch of lame robot-minded people who don't even clients' job descriptions.
So Upwork leader ask Upwork programmers to create funtionality in their software that cuts down on this. They CAN NOT READ COVER LETTERS individually. There are too many. It has to be an automated system.
So a system is put into place that checks a contractor's cover letters agains his or her previous cover letters, to see if they are identical or substantially the same.
If the automated algorithm catches a contractor re-using cover letters, then a penalty is put into place. The contractor's application (proposal) is auto-hidden, or they are ranked lower, or they are warned, or cients are told that this particular application was a copy-and-paste proposal.
THE SOFTWARE CAN NOT DISTINGUISH between somebody, such as yourself, for whom using canned proposals has been successful, and the majority of contractors using canned proposals, for whom this strategy is simply annoying to clients
So although I completely understand where you are coming from, and get why you would like to continue bidding as you have been, and why you don't feel your practice is probematic, you need to understand that this is a PROGRAMMING ISSUE.
So it doesn't matter if you're logically right or morally right or not. Doesn't matter if you're successful. The software can't handle an "exception to the rule" such as yourself.
For the record, in case anybody is wondering about my own practice. I actually have never had any kind of canned job application or proposal. No template. No block of text. Nothing anywhere. When I apply for a job (send in a proposal), I start with a blank text box and I manually type in every word anew, specifically addressing the client's job description.
Do I insist that everybody else do this
But this works for me and this is the approach least likely to trigger Upwork's automated algorithms.
I have to be careful to not submit too many job applications, because my success rate at getting hired is so high. (I don't want to have TOO MANY jobs at once.) But as long as I limit the number of jobs I apply to, this approach works.
Well, actually i'm with Daniel on this.
But not because i produce high quality canned responses, its because the client usually posts something like : "I need PHP installed on a server". Another one " I need a webserver+php installed" etc.
How i'm supposed to respond differently for both? Pretty much my response will be the same.
re: "How i'm supposed to respond differently for both? Pretty much my response will be the same."
I would not recommend trying to respond differently to both.
I would simply NOT CREATE OR SAVE any canned responses or templates anywhere.
If you respond individually to each job posting, typing new responses and cover letters for each, you won't need to worry if your reponses are "pretty much" the same.