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Protect Yourself from Being Called a Spammer

By Glen Palo
Posted Thursday, December 9, 2004

The purpose of this article is to help website owners, writers, internet marketers to protect themselves from being accused of spamming.

Anyone that has a website, webpage or electronic newsletter and communicates using email, publishes articles or promotes their URL can be accused of being a spammer.

First, knowledge is the first step to prevention. Unfortunately, to date there is no official or agreed upon definition of what constitutes spam.

The internet today is the result of the collaborative efforts of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). IETF is a large open international community of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers concerned with the evolution of the Internet architecture and the smooth operation of the Internet. These are the guys that write the guidelines (RFC) and standards to which everyone adheres to make the internet function. They wrote the Netiquette Guidelines (RFC1855). For more info, visit (http://www.ietf.org/)

The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (CAUCE) according to their website (http://www.cauce.org) was created by netizens to advocate for a legislative solution to the problem of UCE (a/k/a "spam"). Unfortunately, they do not specifically define spam other than provide a list of characteristics of email sent by unreputable marketers promoting pyramid schemes, chain letters, etc.

>From my research, I have concluded that spam has been defined as junk email, unsolicited bulk email (UBE), unsolicited commercial email (UCE), unrequested email and more.

Here is a quick check list of things that would possibly be considered spam:

=>Sending advertisements, solicitations, or any type of mailing that was not requested (even if only sent to a single person)

=>Posting advertisements for your web site in news groups, bulletin boards, or any other public medium where such posts are not appropriate

=>Having other people do either of the above.

Most Internet Service Providers and web hosting companies are anti-spam. They have to be because of the severe consequences of being labeled tolerant of spam, and, particularly being listed on the Realtime Blackhole List maintained by Mail Abuse Prevention System LLC (MAPS).

According to the MAPS website at (http://mail-abuse.org/), they are a not-for-profit California organization whose mission is to defend the Internet's e-mail system from abuse by spammers. Their principal means of accomplishing this mission is by educating and encouraging ISP's to enforce strong terms and conditions prohibiting their customers from engaging in abusive e-mail practices.

ISPs that share MAPS concerns about the harm caused by spam often request access to MAPS' databases so that they can decide whether to block email which originates from the listed sites.

Consequently, ISPs have to fear being listed by MAPS if they are not aggressive in combating spam. As a result, many ISPs will shoot first and ask questions later when one of their clients is accused of spamming.

How do you protect yourself from spam complaints?

First and foremost find an ISP or hosting company that takes a proactive approach to spam complaints. Review their Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) or Terms of Service (TOS). If the AUP or TOS does not state how or what their process is for handling spam complaints, ASK! Also ask them about their attitude regarding SpamCop. It appears that SpamCop is becoming the defacto spam clearing house.

When an ISP or hosting company receives a spam complaint, their policy should be to diligently, and swiftly investigate the reported incident. They should make every attempt to determine the actual origin of an email, as well as the intention before making a determination. Their policy should be to issue a warning first.

If you have an opt-in, opt-out mailing list, it should not be a problem. Even then the possibility does exist for someone to "forget" that they opted in. Using a double opt-in method list is ideal for maintaining opt-in lists. The request to be added to a list is submitted and then the submitter has the requirement to confirm the request prior to actually being placed on the mailing list.

People writing articles for publication in electronic newsletters should be particularly careful in selecting their ISPs and hosting companies. The possibility exists that an article could be published in a newsletter that someone claims to be spam.

In short, there isn't a set, specific method of determining how someone will react to a mailing, however using common sense, and reading as much as possible about the pitfalls of spam, should steer readers clear of any major problems.

Some links readers may find helpful: (http://www.dtcc.edu/cs/rfc1855.html) (http://spam.abuse.net/whatisspam.html) (http://www.spamcop.net)

About the Author
Glen Palo has published the Achieve USA Home Business Journal since 1998. For a subscription, please visit (http://www.achieveusa.com) For more information on protecting yourself from spam complaints send an email to spam2@achieveusa.com