EDITORIAL: Think Your E-Mail's Nasty?

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"Magill, you are just another lying scumbag spam supporter with no more sense of ethics than some trailer-park spammer hawking a chain-letter scam."


Though it's probably the most extreme example, the previous sentence is a taste of what arrives in my e-mail box every time I write an editorial criticizing anti-spam group Mail Abuse Prevention System LLC and its founder, Paul Vixie.


And recent e-mails from marketers indicate that my experience with the radical element of the anti-spam camp isn't isolated.


"One thing I've noticed that MAPS vigilantes/followers all have in common is that they have major chips on their shoulders, and this is their way of turning loose their venom onto [anyone in] the world who disagrees ... even in the slightest," wrote one marketer wishing to remain unidentified.


But in communicating with the folks at MAPS -- manager of the Realtime Blackhole List of suspected spammers to which a reported 20,000 mail administrators subscribe -- it has also become apparent that many of MAPS' most vocal supporters don't necessarily represent the group's views.


An unedited passage from an e-mail from Vixie reprinted with permission offers the following:


"Ken, I'm sure you're familiar with the problem of 'it's easier to choose one's enemies than one's friends, because more people volunteer for the latter.' I am NOT happy with the sloppy thinking of most of the supposedly anti-spam community. I wish a lot of the people who call themselves MAPS 'followers' would pay closer attention to principle than to emotion.


"Let me give some examples:


"1. I once had a guy send universal broadcast `syslog' messages to every Unix host on the Internet, containing the text, `your syslog port is open to abuse from outside your LAN -- see http://mail-abuse.org/ for important security info.'


"2. The founder of ORBS started out calling himself the `Dorkslayers RBL' when he started probing the entire Internet address space looking for mail servers, and probing each such server to see if it was an 'open relay' or not.


"These were each adult computer professionals, who operated from a 'spam is bad' mind-set WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING THE REASONS WHY SPAM IS BAD. I hate that."


Those two examples illustrate the technical thinking of MAPS supporters vs. the conceptual thinking of marketers.


Then there are the e-mails from marketers -- almost all wishing to remain anonymous -- concerning MAPS:


"I'm not against them blocking legitimate spammers. But when they threaten to put legitimate marketers on the RBL because they don't conform to MAPS' opt-in methods, MAPS is definitely overstepping their authority. Also, there is no due process or restitution process for marketers," wrote one.


"Vixie mentions RBL subscribers taking the chance of being sued by companies. That's nothing compared to the class action suits that will result from their blocking of legitimate e-mail that costs their customers a free movie rental, winning $10,000, or a free car that required a timely response.


"MAPS and all anti-spam advocates can pontificate all they want about opt-in, double opt-in, etc., but they cannot tell companies how to conduct their relationships with customers. Companies own that, it's theirs, and it should be honored."


With emotion running high on both sides, the debate surrounding these issues should be aired out rationally beyond the small circle of e-mail vendors and anti-spammers who have been meeting recently to rectify their differences.


As a result, look for more contributed articles from MAPS in the coming issues of <I>iMarketing News<I>. By publishing MAPS' contributed articles, <I>iMarketing News<I> is not endorsing its actions or its views. But MAPS clearly holds enough power that Internet marketers must be clear on why it does what it does. The next MAPS contributed piece will appear in next week's e-mail section.


Stay tuned, marketers.
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