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The Anti-Spam Zealots who went to the FTC Spam Forum

By John Calder
Posted Tuesday, December 7, 2004

On the three days from April 30 through Friday, May 2, 2003, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) held a "Spam Forum" in Washington, D.C.

According to the FTC website, the purpose of this forum was "to address the proliferation of unsolicited commercial e-mail and to explore the technical, legal, and financial issues associated with it."

While the FTC and other government entities try to figure out how they can legally address the Spam issue, they are doing so without consulting with those of us who run small businesses online. Of the 97 people who spoke at the forum, the majority was technicians and lawyers who represent the ISP's and Anti-Spam companies. A few of the people even represented large bulk email companies.

Forum participants could not even agree on a proper definition of "spam" --- yet they propose that they are the best qualified to help write the laws that will eliminate spam?

My question is this, who represented the small business owner and the small publishers at the FTC spam forum? No one really. It was not because the small business segment did not have representatives willing to speak on their behalf. In fact, both and --- both of whom represent small online businesses --- had petitioned to have their representatives speak at the forum, but both were turned down.

You can read the list of the people who DID speak at the FTC "Spam Forum" at:


Should you honestly believe the anti-spam profiteers had your interests in mind when they had the opportunity to speak to the FTC?

Here are some of the anti-spam profiteers who found representation at the FTC "Spam Forum":

· Mail Abuse Prevention System (MAPS) · SpamCon Foundation
· SpamCop
· The Spamhaus Project
· Habeas

Even in the hallowed lists of the anti-spam zealots, the profiteers aren't taken very seriously sometimes. When addressing Anne P. Mitchell, Esq., CEO of Habeas, Inc., a member of the SPAM-L list suggested:

"What makes you think that 'we' trust Habeas any more than any other organisation whose business model depends on spam continuing to exist in order to stay in business."

Good point.

William Waggoner, founder of AAW Marketing LLC in Las Vegas, Nevada, did actually support my own point of view. He suggested at the "Spam Forum" that technology techniques like spam filtering hurts even legitimate email marketers!

You know whom Mr. Waggoner was talking about. He was talking about those e-mail marketers who have actually acquired permission from the email recipient to send them commercial email.

When someone in the forum audience laughed at his comment, Waggoner fired back, "You think that's funny?"

So why did they laugh? This gets to the heart of why the FTC Spam Forum was bad news for the legitimate email marketer. Many anti-spam zealots do not believe that there is such a thing as "legitimate commercial email!"

TERM: Double Opt-in - Requires a subscriber to request a subscription and then to verify the intention to subscribe by following a defined procedure.

Even if publishers who now require "double opt-in" subscriptions were to ask for and keep records of "quadruple opt-in" verifications from their subscribers, a lot of anti-spam zealots would still cry foul!

Why else would the terms *s*u*b*s*c*r*i*b*e* and *u*n*s*u*b- *s*c*r*i*b*e* be included in many spam filters with the implied suggestion that email that carries this terminology MUST be spam?

It does no good to be able to prove double opt-in to the ISP's and the anti-spam zealots. Most presuppose that any commercial email is likely to be spam.

The ISP's are honestly concerned with the cost of bandwidth in association with email. Estimates have put the monthly cost of spam to be $3 per month per email account. Thus, if ISP's can reduce or eliminate spam, they can reduce their costs and improve their profits.

ISP's who oppose all commercial email --- you know, the kind who laugh at the suggestion that spam filters hurt "legitimate email marketers" --- think one step further. They believe that if they can eliminate all commercial email, then they can significantly reduce their costs and significantly improve their profits!

At every level of the Internet food-chain, people are concerned with their own profits. The anti-spam zealots, who had the most pronounced representation at the FTC spam forum, will profit handsomely from the loss of commercial email... Or will they?

Without commercial enterprise on the Internet, will people still be flocking to the web in the numbers they are today?

Recognizing the fact that the filtering industry is destroying email commerce, people like Anne P. Mitchell of Habeas, Inc. have come running to the assistance of online commercial businesses. For a price, Habeas will "whitelist" your publication or email --- or should I say for a hefty price, Habeas will "whitelist" your email!

TERM: Whitelist - This is a kind of filter that suggests that any email that meets the whitelist definitions will be pre-verified (under the terms of the whitelist company) as legitimate commercial email.

Habeas purports to offer a "value-added service" that will help your outgoing email reach its destination unobstructed. Habeas also purports its fees to be very reasonable --- up to $500 per mailing list per year. Is $500 really a "reasonable" price? I don't think so.

As consumers, we always think of the "spam war" as something that addresses the unsolicited email from the p*o*r*n industry, the nutritional products industry, and other fly-by-night scammers.

Yet, when the people who are speaking on our behalf in the halls of government think of the "spam war", they are thinking of something else entirely. In fact, they are attempting to remove the cash from the pockets of not only the spammers, but also the small business people who employ legitimate email marketing techniques.

Why do so many anti-spam zealots target all commercial email? Simple, they want to put the cash where THEY think it belongs --- into their own pockets!

About the Author
John Calder is the owner and editor of (http://www.TheEzine.Net) Subscribe Today and get real information YOU can use to help build your online business today.


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