Editorial: An Open Letter to Anti-Spammers

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In response to members of a discussion group called SPAM-L accusing this company and me of somehow intercepting e-mail addresses on their way to this company's former e-mail service provider, Whitehat Inc., and selling the names:


First off, I don't even know how to do this "scraping" of e-mail addresses or whatever it is you've accused me of doing. When I read the accusations, I had to ask around to learn what they meant.


Also, I'm an editor, not a promotions or circulation executive. As a result, my job function here has nothing to do with this company's e-mail efforts other than writing and editing newsletter content. Even a rudimentary knowledge of how newspapers are set up would lead one to figure that out.


One anti-spammer made the following statements:


"Ken Magill is the pinhead involved in an address misuse incident where my confirmed subscription address to the imarketingnews newsletter, administered competently by whitehat.com, ended up without permission or confirmation in the hands of Cheetahmail, who promptly started spamming it."


And later:


"Yes, I hereby claim that he's [Magill] involved in circumventing whitehat.com subscription mechanisms. No plausible deniability, since Rodney [Joffe, president of Whitehat] says he doesn't share the confirmed subscription list back with DM News.


Bill 'the Roadie' Carton"


Bill -- or may I call you Roadie -- my guess is I have a good libel case against you for those remarks if I choose to pursue it.


You acted with malice, and showed reckless disregard for the truth. If an editor behaved that way, he wouldn't be trusted to oversee the wedding-engagement page for a small-town daily and keep the paper out of court. However, I don't think you caused any damage because of the forum in which you published those remarks. Members of the marketing community monitor such forums, but they know the lynch-mob types who post in them. You should think about what you publish a little more carefully, though. Freedom of speech is not freedom to libel.


The allegations stem from an e-mail this company sent to its subscribers telling them that the list was going up for rent and that they could opt out of receiving ads if they wanted.


A post under Joffe's name claimed this company had no copy of the list and, therefore, must be gathering e-mail addresses improperly.


As for how this company got the addresses: Turns out that Whitehat's vice president of operations Barbara Rudin sent the file over here. I have an e-mail in my computer of a discussion that took place from Dec. 20 to Jan. 4 between this company's marketing coordinator and Rudin concerning the delivery of the DM News Daily and iMarketing News Daily subscriber lists.


We don't know if Joffe knew about this or not. We do know he didn't respond to requests for clarification from fellow discussion group participants or from iMarketing News.


Another of your ranks said the following: "[I]t would be nice to have some hard evidence to prove that [Magill is] lying … This particular 'impartial journalist' is clearly anything but. It's time people knew that."


I have written a series of editorials criticizing anti-spammers as a lynch mob. Members of SPAM-L made potentially career-damaging accusations against me on the flimsiest of evidence and reckless assumptions. Is it possible that I'm on to something?


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