New Organization Seeks to Bridge 'Spam' Gap Between Marketers, Administrators

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The SpamCon Foundation will debut Friday with the goal of bringing together two sometimes-contentious communities -- the technology and marketing industries -- to fight spam.

Based in San Francisco, the SpamCon Foundation is the brainchild of Tom Geller, founder of the anti-spam organization and director of industry affairs at the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail. He said the foundation hopes to gain nonprofit status by October 2002.

For now, the organization is seeking to build awareness among marketers and network administrators as well as with the legal community and consumers.

The foundation's mission is to "protect e-mail as a viable communication medium by reducing the amount of unwanted and unsolicited e-mail, or 'spam,' that crosses private networks, while ensuring that wanted and requested e-mail reaches its recipients," according to the foundation's Web site,

Geller anticipates that this will not be an easy task.

"We're trying to bring together e-mail marketers and system administrators," he said. "It's been a very contentious relationship, with no one talking to each other for a while."

He said that by working together, marketers and system administrators can help stem the flow of unwanted e-mail and ensure that marketing messages that are wanted get to the correct recipients.

"Both sides are getting a lot smarter," Geller said.

He noted that the SpamCon Foundation can provide marketers, administrators and consumers with education and services that are not currently offered by organizations such as anti-spam group Mail Abuse Prevention System LLC and the industry-backed Responsible Electronic Communications Alliance.

"I haven't seen any constructive conversation between MAPS and the marketing community," Geller pointed out. "And RECA had a great start, but they didn't reach outside the marketing community."

He hopes the SpamCon Foundation can act as a mediator to help resolve spam issues and can educate the various communities about what spam is and how to prevent it. He said marketers need to understand what types of messages constitute spam and how consumers will perceive them.

"It's important for marketers to know that," Geller said.

The SpamCon Foundation hopes eventually to establish a spam information library that includes acceptable-use policies of Internet service providers, directories of attorneys who take e-mail cases, spam-related legislation and litigation, and a rating service of e-mail marketers' histories and policies.

Additionally, the foundation hopes to establish a dispute resolution service, sponsor spam-related events and promote e-mail development tools. The foundation is working on raising money and expects to have an annual budget of $414,000.

Geller said he hopes to obtain funding from e-mail marketers, vendors and ISPs. The foundation plans to offer different membership levels, including a free service for consumers.

He also said he has been in touch with the Direct Marketing Association and DoubleClick Inc. about the foundation. DoubleClick expressed interest but has not made a commitment to either join or fund the foundation, Geller said.

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