A friend of mine received a chilling email message from his ISP the other day. Someone had reported him as sending SPAM and the ISP warned that an additional SPAM complaint would result in losing his hosting service - period. No ifs, ands or buts!
The ISP just took the word of the person filing the complaint as gospel, even though my friend had the email subscription notification where this person, or someone posing as them, had subscribed.
My friend sent me a copy of the subscription notification. And sure enough, there it was as plain as day? it contained the date, time and the subscription IP address of the person making the Spam allegation. Unfortunately, all this evidence fell on deaf ISP ears.
This little incident firms my conviction that a federal CAN- SPAM law might not be a bad idea after all. Without it, persons alleging Spam, like the one above, may be able to sue under State law. And that's where the nightmare begins?
Oh sure, the person will most likely end up losing the case but here's the typical situation. The "injured party" files a lawsuit and the ISP immediately shuts off service to the publisher. And guess what, the publisher is immediately out of business even though she/he is sitting there with evidence that the allegation is totally groundless. Talk about scary! And if you think this scenario can't happen to you - think again.
The erroneous reporting of Spam has become wide-spread and has gotten even easier. Don't like a company or their products? Just accuse them of spam. Do it a couple of times in one week and, guess what, they're off line - period.
AOL and Yahoo owners can simply click a button and report anything they feel like as Spam - with no consequence whatsoever if the allegation is totally baseless. The "This is Spam button" has replaced the delete key as "the" answer for some folks. And I'll bet you'd have a hard time tracking down whomever made the initial AOL or Yahoo Spam complaint as well.
Time to Get Tough
There are several proactive steps you can take to protect yourself against baseless Spam allegations. Admittedly, there is nothing you can do to stop someone bound and determined to damage your reputation and business if they have a mind to do so. You can, however, certainly minimize the risk of this happening to you. But you do have to be proactive.
I recommend that you add a legal notice to your subscription Thank You page and also to every ezine newsletter issue that you send out. Something along the lines of the following?
"The subscriber agrees, by accepting this email newsletter subscription, to indemnify the publisher against false accusations of spam to include, but not limited to, payment of all damages, loss of web hosting fees and services, all damages for loss of business and goodwill, and any and all fees or fines that may be imposed against the publisher by any federal, state, local authority or civilian business entity as a result of the false spam accusation."
Add the paragraph above, or something similar, just above your ezine unsubscribe link.
The reason I think this is a powerful solution is because it establishes a contract between the publisher and the subscriber. And contract law is pretty much the same in all jurisdictions when it comes to breach of contract.
Please note that what I have provided you is for guidance and informational purposes only and should not be construed as practicing law. Do check with your local attorney to make sure that this statement will suffice in your jurisdiction. But I think you get the idea.
Is this concept new? Hardly, jl Scott of the iCOP organization thought of this over two years ago. Will it scare some of your subscribers off? You bet it will. But guess what?
The people it scares off are exactly the people you DON'T want on your list anyway. They most likely have the itchy moronic fingers or the "I've had a bad day let's accuse someone of Spam and get them shut down" folks that you don't want to have anything do to with anyway.
Listen, perhaps it's just me, but I wouldn't be fazed in the least if I saw such a caveat on an ezine I really wanted to sign up for. Would you? I only want people on my list who are responsible and willing to accept the consequences of their actions. People who, if they mistakenly accuse me of Spam and got my business erroneously shut down, would face up to their responsibility and pay for the damage they caused. I don't want a Spam Nazi on my list who is too lazy to hit the delete key. No thanks!
Rough? Yes, but that's the reality of doing business on the Internet today.
Other Options Available
Paul Hancox of UpYourMarketing.com has just released a brilliant report that outlines several other steps any prudent publisher online should take to protect themselves and their online business. It's called "The ePublishers Survival Kit - How to Minimize Spam Complaints and Defend Yourself Against False Spam Accusations."
The report is in pdf format so MAC and WIN users alike can access the information. Combine these recommendations with those in Paul's report and you'll pretty much be covered.
Final thoughts. I don't have to remind you of how hard you worked to build your online business. Protect yourself and minimize the risk of having it suddenly shut down by following the recommendations here and in Paul's free report.
While you can't stop malicious Spam complaints 100%, taking proactive steps now can go a long way to making sure your business remains safe and viable. Believe me, that'll make you sleep much better at night!
About The Author
Malacka - Copyright 2003
Stuff that Really Works to Make You Money Online!
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