The purpose of this article is to help website owners, writers,
internet marketers to protect themselves from being accused of
Anyone that has a website, webpage or electronic newsletter and
communicates using email, publishes articles or promotes their
URL can be accused of being a spammer.
First, knowledge is the first step to prevention. Unfortunately,
to date there is no official or agreed upon definition of what
The internet today is the result of the collaborative efforts of
the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). IETF is a large open
international community of network designers, operators,
vendors, and researchers concerned with the evolution of the
Internet architecture and the smooth operation of the Internet.
These are the guys that write the guidelines (RFC) and standards
to which everyone adheres to make the internet function. They
wrote the Netiquette Guidelines (RFC1855). For more info, visit
The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (CAUCE)
according to their website (http://www.cauce.org) was created by
netizens to advocate for a legislative solution to the problem
of UCE (a/k/a “spam”). Unfortunately, they do not specifically
define spam other than provide a list of characteristics of
email sent by unreputable marketers promoting pyramid schemes,
chain letters, etc.
>From my research, I have concluded that spam has been defined
as junk email, unsolicited bulk email (UBE), unsolicited
commercial email (UCE), unrequested email and more.
Here is a quick check list of things that would possibly be
=>Sending advertisements, solicitations, or any type of mailing
that was not requested (even if only sent to a single person)
=>Posting advertisements for your web site in news groups,
bulletin boards, or any other public medium where such posts are
=>Having other people do either of the above.
Most Internet Service Providers and web hosting companies are
anti-spam. They have to be because of the severe consequences of
being labeled tolerant of spam, and, particularly being listed
on the Realtime Blackhole List maintained by Mail Abuse
Prevention System LLC (MAPS).
According to the MAPS website at http://mail-abuse.org/, they
are a not-for-profit California organization whose mission is to
defend the Internet’s e-mail system from abuse by spammers.
Their principal means of accomplishing this mission is by
educating and encouraging ISP’s to enforce strong terms and
conditions prohibiting their customers from engaging in abusive
ISPs that share MAPS concerns about the harm caused by spam
often request access to MAPS’ databases so that they can decide
whether to block email which originates from the listed sites.
Consequently, ISPs have to fear being listed by MAPS if they are
not aggressive in combating spam. As a result, many ISPs will
shoot first and ask questions later when one of their clients is
accused of spamming.
How do you protect yourself from spam complaints?
First and foremost find an ISP or hosting company that takes a
proactive approach to spam complaints. Review their Acceptable
Use Policy (AUP) or Terms of Service (TOS). If the AUP or TOS
does not state how or what their process is for handling spam
complaints, ASK! Also ask them about their attitude regarding
SpamCop. It appears that SpamCop is becoming the defacto spam
When an ISP or hosting company receives a spam complaint, their
policy should be to diligently, and swiftly investigate the
reported incident. They should make every attempt to determine
the actual origin of an email, as well as the intention before
making a determination. Their policy should be to issue a
If you have an opt-in, opt-out mailing list, it should not be a
problem. Even then the possibility does exist for someone to
“forget” that they opted in. Using a double opt-in method list
is ideal for maintaining opt-in lists. The request to be added
to a list is submitted and then the submitter has the
requirement to confirm the request prior to actually being
placed on the mailing list.
People writing articles for publication in electronic
newsletters should be particularly careful in selecting their
ISPs and hosting companies. The possibility exists that an
article could be published in a newsletter that someone claims
to be spam.
In short, there isn’t a set, specific method of determining how
someone will react to a mailing, however using common sense, and
reading as much as possible about the pitfalls of spam, should
steer readers clear of any major problems.
Some links readers may find helpful: