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Can Spam! Before it's too late!

By Mike Banks Valentine
Posted Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Internetweek recently ran a survey asking companies if they ever use Unsolicited Commercial Email to market their business. The results were astounding assuming the respondents represent real, legitimate businesses! (How many spammers read Internetweek?)

"In fact, one in 25 of our survey's respondents said their companies' marketing efforts include the distribution of unsolicited e-mail."

And that is just those who ADMIT spamming! That is a very ugly percentage and something needs to be done. I am in contact with the Chief Privacy Officer of one of the largest email marketing companies on the web asking to be removed from the marketing database by domain.

That seems to be difficult. Why? I want my subscriptions to remain intact, I want my hosted applications to continue undisturbed, I want to request information from online companies and I want all of that while also wanting to stay out of marketing databases.

This seems like a relatively simple thing to do technologically. Internetweek recently published an article titled "Privacy tools emerge" at:

(http://www.internetweek.com/ebizapps01/ebiz042301.htm)

What makes the process of privacy protection so hugely complex?

WebSite101 recently added a privacy protection tool to our domain which protects our database from outside access and so far seems like a perfect solution to keeping our subscribers and site members information private on a shared server. We highly recommend it for those who value the privacy of their web site members.

Take a look at the possibilities for both privacy protection and website community building on your own domain:

(http://WHAMworks.com)

This software allowed us to offer an iron-clad privacy policy. The trust of your visitors is far more important than any other feature you could offer. Immediately following the posting of our new privacy policy, we experienced an upsurge in new memberships unprecedented since the inception of our site!

Isn't it clear we all want a solution?

There are raging anti-spamming fanatics getting legitimate companies shut out of their ISP's by falsely accusing people of distributing UCE (when their domain is mentioned in an article published by *anyone*) by running entire newsletter through a service called SpamCop. This tool is abusive and should be shut down or discredited since it extracts every domain name mentioned in the newsletter and sends email to the host of those domains and endangers the owners of those domains with knee-jerk reactions by their ISP's. It is not uncommon that victims of these complaints are shut down by their web host without investigation!

"Guilty until proven innocent" is the attitude of many service providers since they are under constant pressure from everyone from their customers to their own providers to do something to prevent further complaining and end email abuses. This has caused a new backlash by innocents who have been threatened with the closure of their online business stemming from those spurious complaints.

If this anti-spam article were published in an anti-spam newsletter and the newsletter were submitted to SpamCop every domain mentioned within this text would be turned in to their ISP for spamming. How effective a tool is one that indiscriminately shoots at everyone? That is essentially the effect of anti-spam software used badly. It would shoot to kill all, including the anti-spam sites mentioned here.

(http://www.cauce.org/) (http://www.emailabuse.org/) (http://spam.abuse.net/spam/) (http://www.junkbusters.com/) (http://www.mail-abuse.org/) (http://www.abuse.net/) (http://www.samspade.org/) (http://spamcop.net/) (http://www.spamrecycle.com/) (http://www.suespammers.org/)

Everybody is hot under the collar about spam but nobody is doing anything real to stop it legitimately. The government is debating the issue and threatening to pass stringent laws, but haven't figured out how to legislate the issue. Reference laws:

(http://www.spamlaws.com/federal/summ107.html)

Now there are fanatics on both sides of the issue and it is going nowhere but occassionally to the Realtime Blackhole List. This is one attempt to address the issue that creates more heat than light. Marketing companies want the Black Hole List shut down. Why? 24/7 media have recently won a court injunction to have their domain removed from the Black Hole list.

For info about the Blackhole List at the Mail Abuse Prevention System or MAPS visit:

(http://www.mail-abuse.org/rbl/)

Is Spam destined to join religion as one of those things we avoid discussing in polite company out of fear of brawls breaking out? I recently attended a marketing conference where the topic of spam turned a roomful of reasonable folks into sharply divided camps raging loudly at each other across the conference table.

I've just joined a spam discussion list where many of the same emotions are raised in what seem to be otherwise reasonable folks. Everyone seems to agree there is a problem, but each have very distinct ideas about what should be done to address the problem. Comparisons are constantly made to core issues of freedom of speech, gun control, product liability, totalitarianism, and all the while, nobody agrees on a solution.

Marketers should take the lead and help develop technological solutions to unwanted email before they are hit with a massive public backlash and the complete loss of this valuable marketing medium due to public hysteria and government over-reaction.

I vote that DoubleClick, WhiteHat, 24/7 Media and their cohorts commit a bit of their thinning profits to helping solve the problem of spam before they get wiped out by the building tsunami of public opinion.

We've recently added a Spam Tutorial to WebSite 101: (http://www.website101.com/spam_kills_business.html)

You can read it at the URL above or adopt the following guideline:

DON'T DO IT! End of lesson

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