October 3, 1997
THE CRUSADE, PART TWO!!
We've polished our armor and mounted our gallant steed, who whinnies in anticipation of the battle. We're ready to charge forward onto the next stage of our Crusade Against Spam. But wait, who gallops over the horizon?
Harken, it appears that a strange knight has ventured forth to give The Outragers a much needed respite. His name is Tom Raynor, and he is the author of the following guest essay, otherwise known as The Crusade, Part Two.
We received many offers of help and encouragement as a result of part one of the Crusade. However, many readers, while sharing our concern with spam, voiced objections to combating unsolicited bulk mail via legislation. We've written a special note to reply to the concerns of these readers.
by Tom Raynor
If you are outraged about junk e-mail, otherwise known as "spam," then you are especially outraged at Sanford Wallace, President of Cyber Promotions, Inc.
For anyone who hasn't heard that name already, let me explain. He has adopted a nickname that was originally given him by his most bitter opponents: "Spamford." He also seems to enjoy going by the title "The Spam King." He virtually created the concept of junk e-mail, and continues to openly promote it, in flagrant disregard for the disgust virtually all netizens hold for him. Losing dozens of lawsuits, even being repeatedly kicked off Internet Service Providers (ISP's) after complaints by outraged
customers, has done nothing to diminish his support of junk e-mail.
Where did he come from? How did it all begin? Where is he going? Let's start at the beginning.
Before there was junk e-mail, and before there was Cyber Promotions, there was a company called Promo Enterprises. This, too was owned by Mr. Sanford Wallace. You probably never heard of him or his business back then, but I'm sure you heard about what Promo Enterprises was doing: sending junk faxes.
It was in all the papers. He was extremely aggressive, and refused to stop, even when the owners of the fax machines being targeted became outraged at him. He claimed he was doing nothing illegal, and therefore nothing wrong. He didn't care how many people were unable to use their fax machines while his junk was spewing out, nor how much of their money he wasted in fax paper and toner.
The only way these outraged businesspeople were able to regain control of their own fax machines was to pressure congress to pass a law, 47 USC 227. This was a carefully-worded law that allowed recipients of unsolicited commercial faxes to sue for damages. It worked. Promo Enterprises was, for all appearances, out of business.
But that didn't last long. Soon, home computers and home e-mail became popular. Popular enough for Mr. Wallace to see a new pool of suckers to target. People without the political clout of his former business-backed opponents with the fax machines. People who could be easily forced to waste their time, equipment and money receiving his junk advertising messages.
His first targets were AOL customers; a growing but not yet computer-savvy group who were the least technically able to exact revenge. In a later court case, Mr. Wallace was to beg for an injunction allowing him to continue sending his junk through AOL's computers, claiming that he'd go bankrupt immediately otherwise. (He lost in the end, but he was able to stall the case long enough to devise sneaky ways around the AOL blocking).
It was around this time that I had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Wallace by phone. My naive intent was to register a complaint with a company whose product (junk e-mail) I found offensive. Instead, I was sworn at, berated, threatened with being mail-bombed, and at one point told that "The authorities are on their way over to pick you up now." That last threat was a
reference to the fact that I was calling his toll-free number. It seemed Mr. Wallace was outraged over the fact that I was wasting HIS time, equipment and money!
At the time, I was more amused by the irony of that statement than concerned about the threat. But I was later to find out that it was a good thing I had not given him my name or e-mail address, as he had repeatedly demanded. Others who have confronted him have reported having their systems crashed by repeated e-mailings, or having junk e-mail sent to millions of disgusted users with the "from" line forged to the complainant's address.
After this, Mr. Wallace went on the offensive, both on the Internet and in court, taking on AOL and losing, taking on Compuserve and losing, being kicked off one ISP after another, often taking them to court, and always losing.
But, through loss after loss, he remained defiant. He went on a domain-naming spree, registering domain names with every possible combination of letters and numbers that even resembled "Cyber Promotions," along with names containing the words "first amendment" and "rights," as if he'd somehow been the one who was being victimized! Each time junk from a new domain was blocked by all the major ISP's, he'd switch to another. And the junk kept flowing.
Now, he's working to develop his own ISP, one that not only allows junk e-mail, but encourages it. He has branched out to selling the software needed to send junk e-mail, and instructions on using the dirty tricks he developed to avoid being blocked. He also sells lists of e-mail addresses to other junk e-mailers.
By now you should realize that Mr. Wallace is not going to be persuaded by social pressure to stop sending junk e-mail. There is, however, one thing that even he admits will stop him cold.
It worked before, and it can work again. There is a move underway to amend the junk fax law. With the addition of a few words, it could apply just as easily to junk e-mail. With it, private citizens and businesses would regain control of their own time, money and equipment. This law has been tested, and found constitutional. It is so limited in scope that it cannot easily be abused by over-zealous government officials. It does NOT ban or restrict any kind of speech. All it does is allow computer owners to collect damages when their systems are used against their will to convey unsolicited, commercial e-mail.
Call or write your congressmen and women, and urge them to pass Rep. Smith's "Netizens' Protection Act of 1997" NOW!
For more information about fighting junk mail, including the complete texts of the junk fax law and junk e-mail bill, please visit the following sites:
CAUCE, an organization fighting junk e-mail
Full Text of 47 USC 227
Since Wallace has undoubtedly contacted you via e-mail, he is probably waiting to hear back. He can be reached at: 215-289-4610 or 215-628-9780. He is constantly changing phone numbers, so don't be surprised if these are soon out of service. Alas, we were unable to find a toll-free number that we were sure was his.
The most recent update on the Spam King is that a U.S. District Court Judge granted Cyber Promotions a temporary preliminary injunction forcing their service provider, Apex Global Internet Services (AGIS) to reconnect them to the Internet. AGIS had cut off service to Wallace but the King, who spends much of his time in court, sued for a reconnection.
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