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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Spam Mania - Would you like to ruin a business? - ...

Posted: 2005-07-24T00:39:00Z


Spam Mania - Would you like to ruin a business? - Guilty Till Proven Innocent! by Dale Reardon

I felt compelled to write this article after a recent bad
experience of my own. Spam vigilantes abound on the
internet and unfortunately a right which every person should
have in civilised democracies - in fact a basic human right
- does not exist in relation to spam and spam complaints.
This vigilante activity would not be tolerated offline -
normally one cannot simply take the law into one's own hands
but it seems this has become acceptable online. However
below I do recommend a solution and an association which can
help you.


And yes that is in capitals to shout at you - that is the
single most important thing in any legal system. Also here
is one more:


If you bear these 2 principles in mind you will treat
everyone else fairly and be treated fairly yourself. You
get back 10 times in life what you give to others - just not
necessarily from the same people that you give to.

Now the problem on the internet is that spam has no real
precise definition and it is open to interpretation. What
you view as unsolicited someone else may well appreciate.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't advocate or support spam in
any form whatsoever but I support innocent until proven
guilty and a common sense approach.

For example you should only send out your newsletter to
people who have requested it and not harvest email addresses
from discussion forums. But what happens when someone
forgets they have subscribed or is just too plain lazy to
unsubscribe or contact you first to discuss the matter?
Requiring someone to confirm their subscription will not
protect you if you are presumed guilty. Many of you will
have heard of SpamCop - a self made spam vigilante, who in
my opinion does not act responsibly or obey the 2 most
important principles stated above, which are necessary for
any democracy to operate. Also SpamCop doesn't care less
about small operators and unfairly favours big well known
brand names.

From Spamcop's definition and comments about spam:

"In general, email from reputable companies, such as
Microsoft and Amazon are opt-in, and if you receive email
purporting to be from a company you would
Normally consider being legitimate, you should consider
carefully the possibility that you did agree to receive it
some time in the past. If you are sure
You did not, then it may be someone attempting to appear to
be a representative of the company in question, but who
actually does not have the consent
of the company. Once in a while, a large, otherwise
reputable organization will "accidentally" send out some
unsolicited email. The main domain-name registry,
Network Solutions, is a notable example of this. It has in
the past sent outright spam and has been widely criticized
for this action among spam-fighters.
In any case, if you are sure that you did not request the
email, then you are well within your rights to report it as

Just because you think you didn't request it does not mean
the person is guilty of spam. Then again maybe you have the
right to be judge, jury and executioner :->

So if you can afford to spend millions, make a loss and
develop your name, SpamCop thinks you are then innocent
until proven guilty but if you are poor and like most of us
you are guilty - talk about justice for the Rich only.

I want you to think carefully - and then think again - and
then sleep on it - before you report someone for spam.
Their business, their very future, and the income they use
to support their family is at stake. I am not being
melodramatic as you will see when I tell you my personal
story now.

Recently I changed distribution sources for sending out my
ezine. I did not trust my ezine in the hands of anyone else
and my previous system was unreliable so I now use a system
on my own domain. However I had a problem exporting the
subscribers from my previous service. I therefore had to
use copies of subscription request emails that I had on my
computer. I knew that this meant I would be importing some
people who had already unsubscribed. However I gave a full
explanation in my ezine and a surprise gift when people
unsubscribed to make up for it.

However obviously some people weren't content with my humble
apology and explanation. I was reported to SpamCop. Did
Spamcop contact me first to discuss the matter? Did they
tell me who the complainer was (a well known principle of
all justice systems also where an accused has the right to
confront their accuser)? Did they even think this ezine may
have been opt in and do nothing? No on all counts!

Spamcop contacted the hosting upline that my site was on and
a little while later sent me an email. I won't reveal the
host here as that may prevent this article getting published
(as lots of you are probably hosted on them) but the host
didn't bother contacting me either, they just closed my
domain instantly. Did they assume I might be innocent
either? No! I only found out when I went to check my site
- you should do this regularly.

Eventually I resolved the matter with the hosting upline but
throughout this whole process I was a condemned man -
convicted and sentenced to death without even getting a
hearing first - let alone a fair one. For heavens sake,
even some third world dictatorships pretend to have a fair
trial - not even that happened here.

So a complaint was made to Spamcop - they accepted it
without question - heh, after all I'm not a big name and
even if the person forgets they have subscribed Spamcop says
that is still spam - and then my website went down.

Now I was lucky - I don't scare too easily and I don't give
up a fight. However I admit this episode was terrifying and
caused me lost sleep. It also made me realise how fragile
your business can be and how we must all fight against such
hysteria - we must remain innocent until proven guilty.

Personally if I reported spam I would want it investigated
and both sides given a chance to explain themselves before
any action was taken. I don't think this is too much to ask
do you?

So please think very carefully before reporting spam and
contact the person who sent the email first to discuss the
matter. Remember, if you don't one day you could end up in
this sort of trouble yourself.


Don't use your sword and simply send off a spam complaint
without thinking. Take it very seriously because the
consequences are ultra serious.

However all is not gloom and doom. There is an organisation
I have discovered that is fighting back against these self
proclaimed spam vigilantes. E-crucible is a wonderful
organisation which I encourage you all to join for Free and
help them in their mission. Here is their mission statement
and website:

e-Crucible, Inc. is committed to returning sanity and
responsibility to the Internet. We feel that the hysteria
regarding the use of what is termed "Unsolicited Commercial
Email" (UCE or "Spam") that is prevalent in the Internet
culture today is unfair, irresponsible and counter-
productive to maintaining the Internet as a free

The Internet respects no national boundaries. Therefore, any
policies regarding the Internet will be most effective if
made at the international level. We will advocate for a fair
and reasonable INTERNATIONAL policy regarding "Unsolicited
Commercial Email" (UCE or "Spam") and its fair enforcement
by all Internet Service Providers.

We are commited 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.

The Internet is the greatest tool for freedom in the history
of mankind. e-Crucible believes in maintaining the Internet
as a free marketplace for the exchange of ideas, products
and services.

I highly commend E-crucible to you and urge you to join
their email discussion list to discuss these matters here:

You might not think you will have your life ruined by a spam
complaint but believe me, it can happen. I am not ruined
myself, but I will personally fight to bring some sanity
back to the spam debate. I hope you will support our cause
and bring fairness and democracy back to the internet.
Remember, we should all be innocent until proven guilty.

About the Author
Dale Reardon. Owner of the WebResources Newsletter.

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