Virtual OS/2 International Consumer Education

October 1998

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Editorial: Thoughts on the First Spam Freedom Day

By: Mick Brown

Today is the first anniversary of removing megaspammer Sanford Wallace's Cyberpromotions spamhaus. AGIS disconnected on 16 October 1997. All the dedicated spammers that were on circuits were removed by the spring of 1998, and I don't remember seeing any AGIS related spam in a LONG time.

Are we any better off? I'm not sure. The spammers scattered, and the DMA has lobbied hard to legalize spam. So far as I can tell they and similar Direct Marketing Organizations are responsible for much of the spam language in the recent USA Senate 1618 and House of Representatives 3888 bills (see and for more information).

The Direct Marketers Association represents companies who rent lists of names, addresses, and phone numbers. They usually don't represent the manufacturers or resellers, and certainly not Joe Average. They represent the folks who call you at dinnertime and the folks who are responsible for the increasing numbers of hang up calls in early evening. Although their members are responsible for invading the sanctity of your home, they claim that their membership list is a "trade secret" or "proprietary information" so you cannot find out who they really represent. They are currently advertising a conference on how to direct pharmaceutical ads at you . I really don't see how they can do that without looking at your medical and drugstore records.

The DMA is saying that harvesting your email addresses from public and private fora for use in unsolicited messages is fine if the marketer sends email informing you of his intentions to use your addresses and an opportunity to opt out.

The DMA advises their members that they may ignore the requests of consumers to remove names, addresses, and phone numbers if the consumer pays a third party to contact all the hundreds of direct marketers in his behalf. The DMA does not seem to require use of telephone or mail preference opt-out lists that the DMA runs.

It appears to me that the DMA and similar organizations are not acting in the interest of their customers (businesses who sell products) nor the consumer but in the interest of the telemarketers and mailers who get paid on a per-name used basis. The DMA is making consumers jump through unnecessary hoops to get on do not call or do not mail lists. They lobby against laws that would allow you to fill out a form at your post office to stop getting junk mail, they lobby against laws that would allow you to check boxes on your phone bill to get off the annoying telephone solicitors lists.

The people who run those lists mine information about you from every source they can. One of those companies is called IBM Midrange Professionals (from whois "") which collects information about home addresses, phone numbers, job titles and lots of other information from company websites, the Internic whois database, and classifieds sites. sent out a spammed mailing on 4 Jun 1998 for advertising IBM tools and strategies for Mr. Bill's OS.

I was shocked to see a post entitled "All is lost spammed by IBM Corporate" .... and investigation showed that it was true. Further investigation pulled up a post claiming to quote a communication from one of IBM's official spokesmen Tim Blair in

| . . . First, I should explain IBM's interpretation
| of 'spamming'. The term clearly has a negative connotation, and by our
| interpretation, involves senders who knowingly conceal their identities, or
| continually send you emails after you have requested that they stop doing so.
| The flip side of this is that there are legitimate reasons for distributing
| mass emails (in the same way mass mailings are distributed to our physical mail
| boxes.)

| IBM and other ISPs are working on developing tools that enable customers to
| "filter-out" unwanted email.

I don't see how Tim's IBM approved spam differs from spam as we know it... except IBM claims to be working on spam filter software to sell us... to protect us from IBM approved & other spam.

None of my queries to Mr. Blair, various IBM VP's or Product Managers, to IBM's CEO, Mr. Gerstner, or official contacts at IBM have disputed that Mr. Blair's comments represent official IBM policy. In fact IBM has almost uniformly ignored my queries other than indicating that they passed the buck to higher ups. IBM has since removed the page to Write Lou from the home page.

I also queried these folks in reference to a spam sent by IBM via FDDS. See the Thread starting at which contains a copy of the IBM Corporate spam. IBM spanked partner hard when they spammed, IBM has been almost silent when they did almost the same thing.

IBM still has not responded whether it stands behind Mr. Blair's policy statement on behalf of IBM. Mr. Blair has not denied that he wrote it. IBM Midrange Pros is still gathering data on your employees and your business and targeting them for telephone, mail, and (probably) email solicitations. (To be fair one official IBM contact denied that is an IBM business unit.)

-- Mick Brown

Things individuals can do:

Register your email preferences at to show what unsolicited commercial email you are willing to receive. (If you don't want any kind of spam don't check any of the boxes.)

SafeEPS is run by a wealthy acquaintance who manages the Mail and Telephone Preference systems for the DMA. Rodney is also highly anti-spam. He was instrumental in removing lots of spammers when he ran one of the smaller backbone networks. Adding your name to the 40 million already in the safeEPS system he runs is another vote against spam held and confirmed by a party trusted by most marketers and many of the anti-spam community.

Find out how to report spam. At a minimum report the spamvertised website and the email addresses in the body of the message. If unsure don't report the from address which is almost always forged. If more people do this, the reluctant networks will start removing websites of spamvertisers. tracerte is in your /tcpip/bin directory whois is on hobbes. has spam fighting tips and information, and I'll upload some links to OS/2 software useful in spam fighting to my web board tonight or tomorrow.

If you have stock in a company that provides services to spammers (e.g. Bellsouth, AT&T, Cable & Wireless (, Worldcom (,,,, Sprint all have persistent spammers in their networks, there are others too) write to the board concerning why they are permitting their downstream customers to continue to spam. Request that they amend their acceptable use policies to fine spammers and shut them off whether they spam directly or indirectly in email, usenet, web boards, or IRC.

AT&T has amended their AUP & reporting requirements so that if you don't give your name address phone company etc. they state they won't investigate or terminate even if other evidence shows their customers are abusive and . AT&T has been accused of and settled suits for violating telephone privacy laws see . AT&T won't stop calling my neighbor nor my roommate although it is illegal for marketers to ignore do not call requests, and they want your personal information before they'll investigate their abusive customers.

See and similar organizations to see how US businesses are violating your rights to be left alone.

Spam and other intrusive unsolicited marketing is not just a waste of resources of my ISP, my email quota, etc. it is usually a violation of my privacy.

Why can't I send a form to my post office to stop junk mail or indicate the types of junk mail I'd like? Why can't I check boxes on a form and indicate what telephone solicitations I'm willing to accept? Why do the folks who really are investigating me (DMA ATA AMMA etc. members) (a` la the "Are they Investigating You?" TCPS spammer) get to determine what ads I see?

Editors note: Mick Brown is the moderator of the USENET Newsgroup comp.os.os2.announce. Though the above is not directly related to OS/2, we in the OS/2 community have become more dependent on the internet then the average windoze user for our daily OS/2 news and software. For that reason we need to support efforts that help the internet community in general. Please direct any comments to

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