Anti-Spammers Threaten: You Think MAPS Is Bad?

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E-mail marketers may soon yearn for the days when Mail Abuse Prevention System LLC was their biggest pain in the neck, according to sources from the anti-spam camp.


In the wake of the recent settlement between Experian eMarketing and MAPS, some Internet service providers have begun subscribing to other so-called block lists, or lists of suspected spammers that ISPs use to filter unwanted e-mail. And these other lists' maintainers are not nearly as friendly as the folks at MAPS, sources say.


However, there are questions over how effective these lists can be since their subscribers are generally small to medium-size ISPs.


"If they could get enough ISPs to subscribe to these other lists to make a difference, it would be quite a feat," said one e-mail marketer who nonetheless wished to remain anonymous.


Several e-mails to iMarketing News claiming to point out the downside of the Experian/MAPS settlement for Experian named two maintainers of block lists: The Spamhaus Block List and the Spam Prevention Early Warning System. Sources say these services are quicker on the listing trigger and make it tougher to get removed from their lists. Also, these two organizations are reportedly located outside the United States, making legal action against them difficult.


Copy on the SPEWS.org home page supports the contention that SPEWS is stricter than other similar services:


"Most spam advisory and blocking systems work after the fact," SPEWS home page copy reads. "There is a time lag between the spammer setting up shop, spamming millions, and getting netblocks listed by these systems. SPEWS identifies known spammers and spam operations, listing them as soon as they start, sometimes even before they start spamming."


One reason for the other lists is that some consider MAPS to be too slow, another contention referenced on the site.


What's more, some anti-spammers contend that MAPS goes too easy on marketers.


"Many accuse us of being far too conservative in our listing criteria, and far too forgiving when it comes to being removed from our lists," said Anne Mitchell, director of legal and public affairs at MAPS.


And MAPS' Oct. 3 settlement with Experian eMarketing, one that direct marketers generally applauded, has reportedly resulted in some ISPs taking even more Draconian measures.


Under the settlement, MAPS is prohibited from listing Experian eMarketing on its Realtime Blackhole List without getting a court order.


More importantly, neither Experian eMarketing, Denver, nor its clients have to implement so-called fully verified opt-in e-mail address collection, a process under which people who sign up for an e-mail list must respond to a verification e-mail to remain on the list.


As a result, system administrators in the Usenet newsgroup, news:news.admin.net-abuse.email, reportedly are creating a list of every block of IP addresses assigned to Experian, aiming to permanently block each one. However, what effect this effort may have is unknown.


When asked how many spam filtering lists exist, MAPS' Mitchell said, "I really don't know how many there are out there ... dozens, and if you consider local block lists [including at major ISPs], hundreds, even thousands.


"Personally, were it me, I'd rather be listed with MAPS with no fanfare than to not be listed with MAPS and publicly declare that you intend to keep sending your unwanted mail," she said, referring to the Experian settlement. "There is no 'beating' the admins [system administrators] who don't want to receive your unwanted mail - they will refuse it one way or another - all they need to do is know about it. Or, put another way, can you say 'pyrrhic victory'?"


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