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Ken Magill

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I'm Not Anti-Anti-Spam; I'm Anti-Nutty Anti-Spammer


By Ken Magill

In the comments section beneath the piece published here last week on the recent massive drop in spam not being attributable to any law, some agitated human wrote the following: “[Y]our anti-anti-spam act became tiresome years ago.”

To which I replied: “Apparently not so tiresome that you’ve stopped reading.”

But here’s the thing: I am not now, nor have I ever been anti-anti-spam—or pro spam, to put it more concisely. I defy anyone to find a single sentence I’ve ever written defending unsolicited commercial email in 16 years of covering the subject.

Now I’m not rabidly anti-spam. I don’t get worked up when I receive it. I simply believe it’s a stupid marketing practice.

But there was a great piece of irony in last week’s piece that I failed to pick up on until Mr. Agitated left his comment.

While the piece was aimed a ridiculing those—mostly anti-spammers—who hold the mistaken belief that legislation requiring commercial emailers to get permission before mailing is necessary in fighting spam, I was giving anti-spammers credit for the amazing work many of them have done.

In the piece that moved Mr. Agitated to leave his comment, I lifted parts from an article by Robert McMillan on InfoWorld, including a passage where McMillan quoted notorious ex-convict spammer Robert Soloway as saying that even before he was arrested in 2004, spam was a losing proposition.

“His [Soloway’s] problem? Spam filters had become too good,” McMillan wrote. “In 1997 Soloway was making his $20,000 a day with just one Earthlink account and a single mail server. Ten years later, he had hundreds, perhaps thousands of accounts, computers and Internet domains which he used to play an increasingly complex game of cat-and-mouse with the anti-spam crusaders trying to shut him down. When he finally stopped, he was making just $20 per day. ‘That should tell you how effective the anti-spam community has become,’ he said.’”

If I were anti-anti-spammer, would I have included that passage?

Fighting spam is inherently a noble aim. It’s the way some anti-spammers engage in that fight that is problematic.

For example, serial litigators—like Dan Balsam who sues companies in small-claims court and mostly collects small settlements—are a nuisance, not part of the solution.

Laws requiring marketers to get permission before sending email are a needless overreach that affect only law-abiding companies, not criminal spammers who are already breaking the law.

Anti-spammers who make sweeping negative generalizations about marketers are engaged in infantile thinking. They fail to understand that marketing and advertising drives the production and sales of everything they consume and that commercial interests are why the Internet is the wonder that it has become.

However, the so-called anti-spam community as a whole is the best weapon we have against the criminals and perverts trying to invade our inboxes.

So no, I am not “anti-anti-spam.” I am anti-nutty anti-spammer. There just seems to be a lot of them.


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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: 2011-08-19 19:49:33
Subject: Suing is not a nuisance

Having the lawsuits, especially the recent Hypertouch v. Valueclick ruling, sends a strong message -- that you just can't hire anyone and ignore their actions. Years ago, after suing one Florida company that I tracked Viagra spam to, my spam volume dropped by 50%. Another Florida drug spammer that I had dealt with, Robert Smoley, is due to be released from Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Edgefield, South Carolina in April 2014.