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Direct marketers are taking on spam

In response to the Sept. 29 Perspectives column by Declan McCullagh, "Spam deja vu":

I read your article "Spam deja vu" just now, and while I agree with many of your points, I wanted to clarify a few issues.

I have been involved with a lot of tough issues in my life, but I have to confess that spam is perhaps one of the most complicated. I have never seen an instance where virtually everyone wants to get rid of a problem, but nobody can seem to find the solution. You state: "Sure, the Direct Marketing Association, as I've stated before, is guilty of doublespeak on spam. And lobbying for new laws is hardly that group's highest priority."

As a board member of the DMA, I can tell you that this statement is absolutely false. Bob Wientzen, President of the DMA, has made spam the No. 1 issue for the group. As a group, we visited a number of senators and congressmen/women to push for not just legislation, but enforcement. The real issue here isn't legislation, it's spending the money to shut these criminals down. However, some form of legislation could make it easier to prosecute these cases.

Another major problem is this false belief that legitimate direct marketers are spammers. This is simply false. Just take your own mailbox--99.99999 percent of the spam you receive comes from dubious companies trying to sell dubious products.

Indeed, whenever a legitimate marketer mistakenly sent spam they never repeated the mistake--there are enough spam vigilantes (I'm one of them) out there to teach any company a lesson they will never forget.

We all want to get rid of spam; however, it would be very easy to pass a law that would kill e-mail as a medium for legitimate marketers, while doing nothing to stop spam. I think there are three parts to the solution: Pass federal legislation that will make it easy to prosecute real spammers; Fund a real enforcement effort; and, as you suggest, (Come up with) technical solutions to catch the slippery ones that don't get caught.

We all want to solve this problem.

Kevin O'Connor
Chairman, DoubleClick
New York