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The moral of story? If you use spam-filtering software and complaint-generating function that comes with it, have common decency and responsibility to stop and think about who you're adding to your hitlist. If you don't, and you get it wrong, don't be surprised to find a process- server on your doorstep.
SPAM FILTERING SOFTWARE
To give SpamKiller its due, it appears to be an excellent product. There's a free 30 day download available at http://www.spamkiller.com . I downloaded it myself to see what, if any, cautions are given to users about need to make sure that recipient of complaint is, in fact, responsible for email concerned.
Well, there is such a caution but it took me a good 45 minutes to find it. The software comes with an excellent, comprehensive built-in help facility. Tucked away at end of page on "Sending manual complaints" is caution:
"Note: SpamKiller does not check that loaded addresses are appropriate for selected message. Don't use a ... complaint unless you are certain that its recipients are responsible for spam that you are complaining about."
I would respectfully suggest that this warning be displayed in a more prominent position, coupled with warnings about what can happen to those who use software in an irresponsible manner so as to ensnare innocent parties.
Now, let's take a look at WeStopSpam.net's role in all of this. In my case, "all" they did was forward a complaint they had received from our friend in previous section to my webhost. Here's what they sent:
"From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com X-Loop: one Subject: [WeStopSpam (http://www.ahbbo.com) id:17846286] So-and-So Newsletter Date: Sun, 25 Feb 2001 23:14:50 -0700 (MST) X-Mailer: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.5; Windows 98) via http://westopspam.net/ v1.3.1 - WeStopSpam V1.3.1 - This message is brief for your comfort. ... Spamvertised website: http://www.ahbbo.com > http://www.ahbbo.com is 220.127.116.11; Tue, 27 Feb 2001 02:56:58 GMT Offending message: ..."
So, my website was reported for spamming because it was "spamvertised" - lovely butchering of English language, I must say. This appears to be a coined term for a website that is advertised by means of spam. This means that any paying advertiser in ezine itself is treated as a spammer, merely because spam was used to send ezine.
I checked out website of ezine concerned. It proclaimed that its 85,000 subscribers were all "opt-in" i.e. that subscribers each took some positive step to have their email address added to ezine's mailing list.
Any reputable advertiser is going to be concerned that recipients of ezine are opt-in, so this would have been of comfort to advertisers concerned in this instance.
Mind you, when I sent an email to address displayed at publisher's site, it bounced. Maybe this person IS a spammer. I don't know. And that's point. How are you supposed to know that if you're just advertiser or article author?
But, as far as WeStopSpam.net is concerned, that doesn't matter. The mere fact that advertiser's opportunity was advertised in allegedly spam email is sufficient to make advertiser a legitimate target. In my case, I didn't even advertise! The publisher of ezine ran my article. How many of you out there make your articles freely available for reprint?
WeStopSpam.net would presumably have you restrict reprint rights to your articles to only those publishers who you know for a FACT are sending to a 100% guaranteed opt-in list. How do you do that? Quite simply, you can't. To expect any such thing is just unreal and smacks of an appalling lack of understanding about how online world works.
A reasonable compromise would be if reprint rights were granted to publishers who send their ezine to an opt-in list. I would have no objection to that. Of course, that wouldn't help you with WeStopSpam.org because their policy is to shoot first and ask questions later ... but wait, on second thought, they don't even ask questions later. They just shoot.
You don't get a "please explain" or anything else. You're convicted first and then it's up to you to prove that you're innocent. Of course, by then, damage is done. But WeStopSpam.org doesn't care. I'm sure they see it as just a casualty of war.
Elena Fawkner is editor of A Home-Based Business Online .... practical home business ideas, resources and strategies for the work-from-home entrepreneur. http://www.ahbbo.com