24/7, MAPS Clash over Exactis Lawsuit

The anti-spam organization Mail Abuse Prevention System will be heading back
into the courtroom, this time as a result of a lawsuit by 24/7 Media. The
ad network, serving and marketing technology company filed the suit in
response to MAPS’ adding its e-mail servers to its database Tuesday evening.

The Realtime Blackhole List database contains the Internet addresses of
e-mail servers that MAPS determines to be used by spammers. Many of the
largest national ISPs subscribe to the RBL, and have the option of blocking
traffic from its listed addresses.

About 150 mail servers belonging to 24/7’s e-mail technology subsidiary
Exactis were placed on the RBL.

In return, Denver-based Exactis filed a lawsuit in its local U.S.
district court, asserting that their clients, “and not Exactis … determine
which consumers should receive what information based upon the requests and
permission provided by those consumers.” In other words, that Exactis
should not be held responsible for unsolicited commercial e-mail sent by
clients, for whom it handles delivery of bulk e-mail.

MAPS said it began investigating complaints against spam from Exactis
servers in April. According to MAPS, the two reached a deal shortly
thereafter, in which Exactis agreed that it would prevent unsolicited e-mail
from being sent through its servers, and would ensure that addresses on
Exactis’ own e-mail lists were fully verified.

“Unfortunately, we felt that we had no choice but to proceed with the RBL
listing of Exactis,” said MAPS online operations director Peter Popovich.
“We have been working with Exactis since April, and yet we continue to
receive credible and actionable reports of unsolicited bulk e-mail from
Exactis’ mail servers.

“Exactis is not following through on their commitment, and as a result we
feel that we have no other option in stemming the steady stream of
unsolicited e-mail flowing from their mail servers but to list them in our
RBL database. It is our last recourse in protecting our own network from
receiving this unsolicited commercial e-mail,” Popovich said.

MAPS Director of Legal and Public Affairs Anne Mitchell said that
responsibility falls on Exactis to ensure that its clients are not sending
spam.

“In our agreement, [Exactis] agreed that they would approach all of their
clients to make sure they were doing fully verified opt-in, and that if they
weren’t by a certain date, that they would have to abide by that, or they
wouldn’t be able to transit their e-mail with us.”

A representative from 24/7 Media declined immediate comment.

Mitchell added that lawsuits — of which MAPS has seen its share
lately — are one of the most effective means to legitimize anti-spam
efforts like the RBL.

“The ultimate way to deal with the problem of spam is .., by law being
made. And MAPS happens to feel that one of the ways it’s going to happen is
through lawsuits,” she said. “Not that we enjoy lawsuits, but when we have
challenges to what we’re doing and they’re upheld by the court, that sort of
does help … define and also refine the laws of interstate electronic
commerce, as it relates to bulk e-mail.”

The Redwood City, Calif.-based organization has previously been sued by
several e-mail technology companies and clients. A suit against MAPS by
CMGI’s Yesmail, which operates similarly to Exactis, ended in August with
Yesmail agreeing to use only fully verified lists.

In July, online polling firm Harris Interactive filed suits against MAPS
and several of its subscribing ISPs, including America Online and
Microsoft’s MSN Hotmail. The company dropped its lawsuits in September
after Hotmail agreed to accept its e-mail.


InternetNews Radio host Brian McWilliams contributed to this story.

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