Posted Wednesday, December 8, 2004
If you are distributing material to an opt-in email list, you need to know about a fledgling, grassroots organization called e-Crucible. The organization is committed to "opposing by any ethical, political, and legal means available the vigilante activities of "anti-Spam" fanatics and the unfair and unjust handling of 'Spam' complaints by certain Internet Service Providers."
According to the Executive Director, John Botscharow, e-Crucibles is in the process of acquiring non-profit status so it can exist as a legal entity.
But first, a little background.
As an online publisher, you already know what I mean by bogus spam reports. Either in error or with mischievous intent, a subscriber decides your ezine is spam. Quicker than you can say, "Hey, you subscribed!", s/he sends hostile, rude and often abusive emails to every web site or email address listed in your ezine. In some cases, the complainant includes a worm or virus with the email for added impact. Or maybe s/he reports you to SpamCop, CAUSE or a similar vigilante group.
The bad stuff hits the fan. You're deemed guilty and there is no wayto prove your innocence. Without contacting you, SpamCop emails your ISP, your web host, your advertisers and even the writers whose articles you have published. At best, you spend the next few days explaining and pleading your innocence to the people involved. At worst, your website host and your ISP shut you down. Your business is interrupted until you can make other arrangements. If you live in an area of the world where you have only one ISP available, this can mean the end of your Internet business.
This story is but one example of many. Frank Garon is a webmaster who publishes an opt-in ezine with a subscriber base of 12,000 (http://www.InternetCashPlanet.com). His ezine contains clear unsubscribe instructions. Sometime in April, 2001, a subscriber allegedly sent the entire ezine to SpamCop with the instructions to "shut down this American *&%^ spammer."
Garon reported that SpamCop contacted every email address and web host address contained in the ezine. One victim was a writer whose article had been published in the 'zine. She had the usual resource box at the end of her article, including a link to her site. The writer's email account was shut down, and at last report, her web site was in jeopardy. Remember that this writer did not send a single email. Common sense dictates that she could not possibly have been guilty of spam.
Garon and the writer sent an appeal to SpamCop. The response from SpamCop's "deputy" included the following:"..."If the admin of this ezine would like to pursue punitive action against the SpamCop user for filing a false complaint, we will need to see proof of opt-in confirmation. Otherwise, we will simply consider this matter closed..."
Now here's the kicker. SpamCop did not reveal the name and email address of the complainant. Without identification, how can Garon prove that the subscriber had opted-in? Worse, without the email address, how can Garon remove the subscriber from his list? What's to stop the same subscriber from filing the same complaint repeatedly? Again, it defies common sense.
As Garon wrote, 'To have to spend every day wondering if TODAY is the day some creep is going to falsely accuse you of Spam and cost you and your entire family everything you have put years of hard work into is MORE than a little scary."
To make the story even more bizarre, e-Crucible members state that they have reported real spammers to SpamCop with no results.
If you're an email publisher, the shark attacks come from three sources: odious subscribers, vigilante organizations and ISPs and web hosts who shut you down without giving you a chance to defend yourself. As an individual, you can do little to change the situation.
Please consider signing up for the free e-Crucibles mailing list and help strengthen this little organization with the big goals. Sign up at (http://www.topica.com/lists/e-Crucible/) or send email to mailto:e-Cruciblefirstname.lastname@example.org
Please note: e-Crucible is NOT pro-spam. They are opposed to spurious spam complaints that put legitimate marketers in jeopardy.
About the Author
Visit June Campbell on the web for articles, a FREE ebook, or for guides to writing business plans, business proposals, joint venture contracts and more. (http://www.nightcats.com)