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Another Anti-Spam Tantrum Goes to Court

6/30/15
 
By Ken Magill
 
Utah-based Internet service provider XMission has filed at least three lawsuits accusing companies of violating the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act by sending unwanted email to its customers.
 
XMission is suing digital marketing company Adknowledge, affiliate network Clickbooth and cigar merchant Thompson, and calling for millions of dollars in damages.
 
According to one complaint, from early January, 2015 through mid April, 2015, XMission received approximately 61,391 spam e-mails from Adknowledge.
 
According to another, from early January, 2015 through June 11, 2015, XMission received approximately 105,966 spam emails from Clickbooth.
 
And according to the third, from early January, 2015 through mid May, 2015, XMission received approximately 33,909 spam e-mails from Thompson
 
According to all three complaints, the messages “independently and collectively adversely affected XMission, and which independently and collectively contributed to an overall SPAM problem.”
 
That’s a grand total of 201,266 messages.
 
In each complaint, XMission contends it spends between $100,000 and $200,000 a year fighting spam, amounting to $3 million throughout the course of its business.
 
“The harm XMission suffered, and continues to suffer, is manifested in financial expense and burden significant to an ISP; lost employee time; lost profitability; the necessity to purchase and dedicate equipment specifically to process SPAM that could otherwise be dedicated providing internet access services,” the three complaints said.
 
What they don’t say is that XMission wouldn’t have to spend that money if Adknowledge, Clickbooth and Thompson went out of business today.
 
That would be because XMission would have to marshal the same resources to fight incoming spam no matter what Adknowledge, Clickbooth and Thompson do.
 
For ISPs, the battle against spam is, unfortunately, part of the cost of doing business. And that battle will not be won in any court.
 
I am not here to defend the email marketing practices of Adknowledge, Clickbooth and Thompson. They could all be spamming for all I know.
 
But as I’ve stated repeatedly, if you can serve them with court papers, they are not the problem. That XMission can find and serve these companies means these companies are not trying to hide. Or if they are, they’re doing a terrible job at it.
 
XMission CEO Pete Ashdown said his hope is that the lawsuit sends a message, according to a report on the Clickbooth suit.
 
“If we go after one, then maybe others will take notice as well,” he said, according to the report.
 
No, they won’t.
 
Look, I get it. Spam is a huge pain in the neck for ISPs. I understand it’s a never-ending, blood-boiling arms race. I can only imagine what it’s like being unable to reach out and throttle the criminals flooding ISPs’ servers.
 
But XMission’s lawsuits will not send any sort of message to the real perpetrators. They’ll just keep doing what they do no matter the outcomes of the three lawsuits.
 
The court battles may make Ashdown feel better, but that’s all they will do. They’re a tantrum—albeit an understandable tantrum—and nothing more.
 
From a consumer standpoint, the battle against spam has largely been won through advances in filtering technology. From an ISP standpoint, if the battle is ever to be won—and it may never be—it will also be won through advances in technology and law enforcement against criminal spammers, not with lawsuits against possibly nuisance advertisers.
 
Hat tip to Laura Atkins of Word to the Wise for publishing the three complaints. Access them here, here, and here.
 
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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: William Silverstein
Date: 2017-07-10 10:17:20
Subject: You are wrong, lawsuits do send a message.

While it may not eliminate spam, filing lawsuits do help. In several lawsuits filed in 2014 and 2015, the spam load on my mail server went down by 80%.

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