IN DEFENSE OF (ETHICAL) SPAM.After years of benign neglect benign neglect Decision-making A stance of nonintervention that a clinician may adopt in the face of lesions and clinical conditions which have an uncertain or stable clinical course. Cf Watchful waiting. , the anti-spam movement has finally begun to win some serious legal battles. At last count, ten states are drafting laws to regulate electronic junk mail See spam and junk faxes. . AOL (A division of Time Warner, Inc., New York, NY, www.aol.com) The world's largest online information service with access to the Internet, e-mail, chat rooms and a variety of databases and services. , HotMail, and other ISPs have unleashed their lawyers on bulk e-mailers; spam king Sanford Wallace Sanford "Spamford" Wallace is a spammer who came to notoriety in 1997, promoting himself as the original Spam King. Career
In the late 1990s, his company, Cyber Promotions, aka Cyberpromo, was widely blacklisted as a source of unsolicited email. is apparently so desperate to find a friendly T3 line that he's offering to pay--gasp--as much as a penny for every thousand e-mails he's allowed to transmit.
In theory, of course, banning offers for phone sex and get-rich-quick schemes is something all fair-minded people should endorse. Trouble is, "spam" is one of those emotional icons--like "junk mail"--that often confuses more than it clarifies. Case in point: Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos Jeffrey Preston Bezos (born January 12, 1964 , Albuquerque ) is the founder, president, chief executive officer, and chairman of the board of Amazon.com. Bezos, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Princeton University, worked as a financial analyst for D. E. Shaw & Co. recently sent a holiday e-mail message to 10,000 customers of his online bookstore. Most marketers would agree that Bezos has a real ongoing relationship with his customers; he offered recipients a chance to opt-out from future mailings and he didn't try to hide his return address. But playing by the rules doesn't seem to make a difference: Bezos still found himself accused of spamming.
So let's take a timeout on the anti-spam hysterics hysterics /hys·ter·ics/ (his-ter´iks) popular term for an uncontrollable emotional outburst. . The real question, we think, is whether there's any legitimate form of bulk e-mail--or should ethical marketers simply avoid all commercial uses of e-mail?
"It's only spam," some of our marketing friends insist, "when there's no relationship with the customer. E-mail marketing Email marketing is a form of direct marketing which uses electronic mail as a means of communicating commercial or fundraising messages to an audience. In its broadest sense, every email sent to a potential or current customer could be considered email marketing. relies on targeted lists, not shotgun mailings."
Well, maybe. But most of these "relationships" turn out to be little more than wishful thinking wishful thinking Psychology Dereitic thought that a thing or event should have a specified outcome , a grown-up grown-up
1. Of, characteristic of, or intended for adults: grown-up movies; a grown-up discussion.
2. version of imaginary playmates The name "Playmates" may refer to:
And it's not clear that e-mail recipients even give a hoot Verb 1. give a hoot - show no concern or interest; always used in the negative; "I don't give a hoot"; "She doesn't give a damn about her job"
care a hang, give a damn, give a hang about whether they have a relationship with the sender. We live in a world filled with untargeted advertising, and we usually don't worry about who's "selling our name" to yet another catalog company, or what demographic profile A demographic or demographic profile is a term used in marketing and broadcasting, to describe a demographic grouping or a market segment. This typically involves age bands (as teenagers do not wish to purchase denture fixant), social class bands (as the rich may want we happen to fit when we watch television or read magazines. As consumers, we've learned to pay more attention to the content of an offer than to how the advertiser happened to reach us.
That's an important point, because we suspect that most of the people who complain about spam are annoyed by trashy, offensive content, not by the absence of a pre-existing relationship with the advertiser. We're skeptical that the way to reduce complaints about spam is to build so-called "opt-in" lists of people People denotes a group of humans, either with unspecified traits, or specific characteristics (e.g. the people of Spain or the people of the Plains). Lists of people include:
It's worth remembering, moreover, that many people actually like to get e-mail, and they have a special feeling about the intimacy and responsiveness of the e-mail environment. They enjoy buying products online, filling out surveys, and offering feedback about everything from service quality to new business concepts. If we try too hard to protect consumers from unsolicited e-mail, we may disappoint more people than we please.
"Okay, pre-existing relationships probably don't count for much," our marketing friends might concede. "But what about e-mail campaigns that carpet-bomb a million people? Surely that's spam?"
Not necessarily. High-volume, no-holds-barred spam right now tends to attract fairly sleazy offers, but we expect legitimate direct-marketers will soon begin to scale up their e-mail efforts. Moreover, mass e-mail campaigns are particularly interesting as a way to reach new software sales prospects--people who own PCs but don't often visit retail stores or read magazine ads. If interesting software offers show up in their e-mail occasionally, we don't think many e-mail recipients will object too strenuously.
Which brings us back to the original question: Is there any form of spam that isn't ethical?
And we think the answer is simple--any campaign that hides behind a bogus return address. The big spammers long ago figured out that their biggest cost is processing bouncebacks and opt-out requests, and they escape this cost by routing all their return messages into electronic limbo. We don't need to take free e-mail See Internet e-mail service. away from consumers or implement utopian economic schemes to make carpet-bomb campaigns less profitable. We just need a straightforward legal decision (or perhaps a new law, if necessary) that penalizes spammers who conceal their true addresses. Solve that problem, and spam becomes just another self-limiting marketing technique.
TRAVIS COUNTY district judge Suzanne Covington on the damage caused by a spammer who hid behind another site's domain name: "The defendant's unauthorized use of that address constitutes a common-law nuisance and trespass." (Quoted in PC Week, 12/1/97)
WHOLE EARTH NETWORKS vice president of engineering Scott Mueller on his ISP's attitude toward spam: "Our operational definition of spam is stuff we get complaints about." (Quoted in Web Week, 1/5/98)
MICROSOFT chairman Bill Gates (person) Bill Gates - William Henry Gates III, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft, which he co-founded in 1975 with Paul Allen. In 1994 Gates is a billionaire, worth $9.35b and Microsoft is worth about $27b. on his enthusiasm for emerging markets like China and India: "That's where we'll get a lot of our growth in the coming years. And because they usually don't have lots of legacy systems in place--you know, mainframes and minicomputers--we have a chance to have an even bigger share of the overall computer business than we do in the U.S. or Europe or Japan. You bet I think it's important." (Quoted in Fortune, 8/18/97)
SUN MICROSYSTEMS Sun Microsystems, Inc. (NASDAQ: JAVA) is an American vendor of computers, computer components, computer software, and information-technology services, founded on 24 February 1982. chief executive Scott McNealy Scott McNealy (born November 13, 1954 in Columbus, Indiana) was the Chairman of Sun Microsystems, the computer technology company he co-founded in 1982 along with Vinod Khosla, Bill Joy, and Andy Bechtolsheim. on Microsoft's unwillingness to comply with his company's "Pure Java" standards: "They're really showing their stripes here. Of the 117 Java licensees, we've got one that doesn't want to play." (Quoted in Business Week, 10/20/97)
ZONA RESEARCH vice president Harry Fenick on Microsoft's Java standards dispute with Sun: "This is all a bunch of religious hoo-ha. The problem is that Java is not up to the mark, and Microsoft has had to optimize it for Windows." (Quoted in Infoworld, 9/29/97)
MICROSOFT's Windows 95 License Agreement on the risks of implementing Java: "JAVA TECHNOLOGY IS NOT FAULT TOLERANT AND IS NOT DESIGNED, MANUFACTURED, OR INTENDED FOR USE OR RESALE AS ON-LINE CONTROL EQUIPMENT IN HAZARDOUS ENVIRONMENTS REQUIRING FAIL-SAFE PERFORMANCE, SUCH AS THE OPERATION OF NUCLEAR FACILITIES, AIRCRAFT NAVIGATION OR COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL, DIRECT LIFE SUPPORT MACHINES, OR WEAPONS SYSTEMS, IN WHICH THE FAILURE OF JAVA TECHNOLOGY COULD LEAD DIRECTLY TO DEATH, PERSONAL INJURY, OR SEVERE PHYSICAL OR ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE."