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Internet

Group to field spam-filter complaints

A group of e-mail marketers sets up an Internet forum for people to air grievances about spam filters--which can swallow legitimate messages along with the targeted commercial come-ons.

A group of e-mail marketers on Tuesday set up an Internet forum for people to air grievances about spam filters--which can swallow legitimate messages along with the targeted commercial come-ons.

The Email Service Providers Coalition--a group whose members are responsible for delivering billions of commercial messages to consumers--designed a forum for people to report missing e-mail that is presumably caught in spam traps, or what are called "false positives."

The coalition said it devised the community--called I_Did_Not_Get_My_Email on Yahoo Groups--as a way to help software companies and anti-spam fighters build junk-mail filters that do not hold legitimate e-mail hostage.

"The rapid proliferation of spam is a major problem for everyone. We hope the forum will strengthen the measures being employed to fight spam by providing a resource to make the filters increasingly accurate," Trevor Hughes, executive director of the NAI, said in a statement.

The members of the group, as well as its sponsor, the Network Advertising Initiative, are highly invested in e-mail marketing and making sure it works. Digital marketing and technology companies including Avenue A, DoubleClick, 24/7 Real Media, ValueClick and Digital Impact are among its members. They all either sell technology to power e-mail marketing or host permission-based lists of e-mail addresses that are recipients of advertising messages.

But as the glut of junk mail has gotten out of control, many such companies are concerned that e-mail marketing will be a casualty of the war on spam. Junk mail filters are becoming ubiquitous armor for Internet service providers and corporations to fight the rising tide of unwanted e-mail. But as the filters help block spam from inboxes, they also can delete e-mail from friends, coworkers and marketers that have requested permission to send promotions.

Late last month, the NAI formed the Email Service Providers Coalition to create best practices for the industry to help cut back on unwanted e-mail sent to Web surfers. The NAI itself was formed in the summer of 2000 as a self-regulatory industry association designed to stave off potential government regulation involving the collection and sharing of consumer data.

The NAI announced the spam-filter forum at JamSpam, an industry gathering held Tuesday at CNET Networks, publisher of News.com. JamSpam was a one-day summit for industry leaders to discuss technical solutions to the spam epidemic. Attendees included Sun Microsystems, Yahoo, Oracle and Microsoft.