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Re: Is it spam if it's targeted?

From: Michael Martinez <Michael_at_xenite.org>
Date: Wed 25 Oct 2000 07:23:15 -0500

MARK PEPER <mark_at_hirerocket.com> WROTE:
> We did an email campaign to a very targeted group. Our
> response was great. 13% of the group came back to our
> site and over 5% did exactly what we wanted them to do.
>
> I know there is a lot of controversy about spamming.
> My question is: Would this be considered spamming?

What it's technically called is Unsolicited Commercial
Email (UCE), and sending it out is a violation of most
ISPs' acceptable use policies. Targeting the
recipients doesn't make it any less unsolicited.
There are also a few states which have outlawed the
practice. If you sent messages to people in any of
those states, you are liable for up to $1,000.00 in
fines per violation, from what I have been told, but
you would do best to consult an attorney on that. At
the very least, don't do it again. Spammers HAVE been
successfully sued in some of those states.

> About 1/100 of 1% (.001%) requested to be taken off the
> list. Our ISP provider sent us a message that spamming
> is not part of there policy and if we do it again we
> run the risk of being shut down.

And that is precisely the problem for you. And they're
not doing it just to be hard-nosed. If they DON'T
take action against spammers, other ISPs will cut them
off.

If you know what an Internet backbone is, you may have
heard the story of AGIS. If you don't know what an
Internet backbone is, let it suffice to say that these
are the handful of companies who keep the Internet
going. All the ISPs have to go through them.

AGIS was the only backbone company to refuse to crack
down on UCE and Excessive Multiple (news group)
Postings (EMP, the news group equivalent of "spam").
When the ISPs got tired of being ignored by AGIS, they
stopped connecting to the backbone. It didn't take
long for the company to file bankruptcy after several
hundred ISPs turned their back on it.

THAT is the price of not cracking down, and it may seem
harsh to business people who don't run ISP services,
but it was a method of last resort for the ISPs whose
systems were being hijacked for the purpose of sending
UCE.

You may not have hijacked anyone's system, but you
definitely engaged in behavior which is largely
unwanted on the Internet. The fact so few people
complained to you doesn't mean very few were annoyed.

The RIGHT way to send out email is to use an opt-in
list, either your own or someone else's.
Theoretically, subscribers on opt-in lists have agreed
to be there (and I have signed up for several opt-in
lists myself -- sometimes it takes me a while to
remember which ones I signed up for).

But even opt-in lists can get into trouble. Just over
a week ago one of my administrative people forwarded a
problem to me where an email address we use strictly
for comments had been subscribed to an opt-in list.
How did this happen? We don't know. The list manager
and the cmopany providing the service both insisted
they had done nothing wrong. Since they agreed to
take us off the list after I stepped in and complained
(without making threats), I suggested they might check
to see if they could be used for spoofing.

Spoofing is the practice of subscribing other people to
unwanted mailing lists as a means of harrassment. The
email address that was subscribed to the opt-in list
is associated with a directory we run. That directory
came under a CGI server attack in September. I would
guess there is a remote possibility of a connection
between the two problems, although my administrator
didn't tell me how long she had been getting the email
from the opt-in list on the comments account.

Properly administered opt-in lists will send a
confirmation email to all subscribers asking them to
confirm the subscriptions. As annoying as this might
seem to all involved, the practice has saved me from
spoofing attacks several times. Unfortunately, I
still get tons of spam from unscrupulous business
people who either buy mailing lists without checking
where the data came from or who directly scoop email
addresses off of Web sites. And I know which of my
email addresses would only come from scooping. There
is no doubt scoopers have been run against my domain.

Science Fiction and Fantasy info_at_xenite.org
Now published: Visualizing Middle-earth. Order it now!
http://www.xlibris.com/VisualizingMiddleearth.html
XENITE.org





Received on Wed Oct 25 2000 - 07:23:15 CDT


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