Anti-Spam Blog Naming Names, Aiming to Shame
By Ken Magill
A new anti-spam blog debuted yesterday aiming to out so-called “mainsleaze” marketers—a derogatory name for well-known brands that send unsolicited email—and hopefully shame them into mending their ways.
Dubbed appropriately MainSleaze, the site is aimed at curbing unsolicited email that blacklists don’t generally tackle.
“The purpose for this blog is to create a public record of something that a lot of anti-spammers have been seeing for a while: spam sent from legitimate companies from their own IPs or from an ESP,” said long-time anti-spam researcher and MaineSleaze co-founder Catherine Jefferson. “It’s a tiny, tiny percentage of spam [overall] and ordinarily wouldn’t be worth our attention, but it is not a minuscule percentage of spam that ends up in people’s inboxes because the IPs they’re sending from tend to be trusted and the spam tends to be spam only in some cases.”
Jefferson said she believes some companies and email service providers are taking advantage of a “gray area” between criminal spamming and “big legitimate lists where people want the stuff or at least asked for it at some point.”
Pointing them out publicly may spur some email service providers to work with their clients to clean up their acts, she said.
In fact, one ESP representative told The Magill Report yesterday that a report on MainSleaze has already prompted an internal spam investigation involving the named client.
Jefferson said she has instructed her bloggers—of which there are five so far—to supply actual header and other identifiable information in their posts so people who want to act on the information, such as an ESP deliverability expert, can do so.
The site also allows comments from anyone who wants to post additional or counter information, she said.
“We’re hoping most of the ESPs will want to make use of this and what would be really cool is if we started seeing the companies [using it] which is who we’re truly after,” Jefferson said. “ESPs and companies are our main target.”
One way Jefferson and MainSleaze’s other bloggers determine if a well-known brand is spamming is if its email hits spam traps.
There are two types of spam traps: dummy addresses posted online that have never been signed up for anything and addresses that have been dormant for a long period of time.
Hitting the first type of spam trap means the sender is either harvesting email addresses or buying email names from someone who is harvesting addresses. Hitting the second type indicates the marketer exercises very poor list hygiene.
“People who get spam to their email addresses from a legitimate company via an ESP are never entirely sure whether that company might have technically got that email address legitimately,” Jefferson said. “Well, if they’re hitting my spam traps, I know they didn’t get the email address legitimately.”
Jefferson said the blog’s main weapon is negative publicity.
“If a company continues to spam, we will continue to blog about it,” she said. “If they ignore us that’s probably not wise because then it gets indexed on Google and people will look. This is an experiment and I have no idea if it will do any good.”
When asked if she was concerned about lawsuits, Jefferson said: “I thought about that. I don’t intend to behave in a way that would make a lawsuit warranted.”