Lawrence Magid's article "Going Postal" in the July issue of "Upside" is a poor description of the SPAM issue. He asks for First Amendment protection of SPAM. However, the original purpose was to give us the right to petition our government for redress of grievances. Unfortunately, spam abuse of our private e-mail accounts is the most visible grievance on the Internet. We are exercising the original purpose of our First Amendment with our ". . . angry letters to [our] Internet service providers or to [our] state and federal legislators" or when we hurl insults and threats of legal action.
Contrary to Larry's assertion, anti-spam individuals do not ". . . want to deny those same rights to senders of commercial e-mail." We endorse, support, and use commercial e-mail between consenting parties. We object to unsolicited communication being forced down our throats that interfere with our private e-mail accounts used to support our business. E-mail rape, common among spammers, it not good business and engenders strong negative reactions.
Larry already uses the best commercial e-mail system, mailing lists. However, he received complaints when a technical glitch kept people from unsubscribing. That is because he continued, no matter the fault, to force his message upon those who did not want it. He would not do the same in a face-to-face meeting but he appears to condone it on the internet.
He also raises the misinformation that without unsolicited spam, we would have no " . . . means other than unsolicited e-mail . . . " to find sources of commercial offerings. Here he dismisses search engines, the Web, printed advertisements (such as is found in "Upside"), and a host of other sources. Curiously, good Internet businesses do not need to abuse private e-mail to sell their products because their customers seek them out.
He spends much time discussing spam content, particularly pornographic spam, as if that were the only objectionable kind. He missed the point that it is the unsolicited sales-pitch delivered via private e-mail that is the problem. Stop e-mailing unsolicited offers and our objections will disappear.
Since Larry's article, Sen. Murkowski attached his proposal to the anti-slamming bill. In spite of the attempts to muzzle opposing testimony in the house and limit it in the senate, the congressional record clearly states that it will not solve the problem. Spam complaints will if nothing else, increase until effective legislation is passed. The tragedy is that some will be fooled by claims that "spam is legal" and lose their money to the bulk e-mail charlatans. Nothing in the Murkowski bill protects the spammers from the very practices that continue to drive spammers out of that business. Thankfully, Larry did address the lack of business success with spamming.
By the way, Sen. Murkowski's amendment lets e-mail harvesters continue to resell your e-mail address and has no provisions for individual action. Enforcement is levied upon the FTC, attorney generals, and ISPs with no provisions to support these unfunded mandates. It is strange to see a republican advocate a bill expanding big government enforcement and creating a need for taxes to pay for its enforcement.
Larry incorrectly claims that Sen. Smith's bill would ban spam. It only empowers individuals to deal with spammers on a case-by-case basis in civil litigation without government enforcement. It promotes spam to the same status as junk FAXes so we can all enjoy the benefits of responsible, e-mail commerce.
All in all, Larry's pro-spam article has a lot of bias and many errors. He doesn't understand that the First Amendment is there to protect complainers The best lesson in his article is the observation that many past spammers have abandoned that bankrupt practice. With effective legislation that empowers the individual, maybe they all will.
Robert J. Wilson
Pres. BJ Associates
9011 Randall Rd.
Huntsville, AL 35802