Antispam fund aids blacklist

SpamCon's legal defense fund aims to give scrappy junk mail-fighters--with sometimes controversial tactics such as blacklists--a fighting chance in court against marketers.

Stefanie Olsen Staff writer, CNET News
Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.
Stefanie Olsen
2 min read
An antispam group has established a legal defense fund that aims to give scrappy junk mail-fighters--with sometimes controversial tactics--a fighting chance in court against well-heeled marketers.

SpamCon Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, on Wednesday said its first cause is to support defendants named in a lawsuit that challenges the use of a well-known public blocklist run by Spews.org. The plaintiff, a group of unnamed e-mail marketers, charges that Spews.org and a number of named individuals who contributed to it caused undue financial harm when they included its members' Internet Protocol addresses on its antispam list, which many Internet service providers use as a guide to filter unwanted e-mail.

SpamCon said it decided to weigh in on the case due to important legal principles at stake that could shape spam-fighting policy, including whether Internet service providers will be allowed to use blocklists.

"By assisting in select and strategic pieces of litigation, we intend to create a strong precedent of relevant case law, and ensure that the public has effective tools in its fight against spam," Andrew Barrett, SpamCon's executive director, said in a statement.

As spam has swelled excessively over the last year, the tactics to fight it have become harsher. Blacklists, for one, are a flash point in the spam debate, with critics questioning whether they do more harm than good as they can often bar sources of legitimate e-mail. Last week, participants at a three-day spam summit that the Federal Trade Commission convened sparred over the legality of blacklists. While some believe that they are a voluntary and necessary means to block junk mail, others say "blocklist" owners can be too forceful or arbitrary in their decisions to list a Web site operator as a spammer, and, in turn, cause mail to be lost unnecessarily.

SpamCon is creating a legal advisory board that will recommend worthy recipients. Companies or individuals can make tax-deductible donations to the fund.

EMarketersAmerica v. Spews.org, et al. is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.