Harris alleges that Internet service providers which subscribe
to MAP’s Realtime Blackhole List (RBL) e-mail blocking service — such as
AOL, Microsoft, and Qwest — are
wrongfully blocking the market research firm from corresponding with its
registered, online panelists.
MAPS, named as a defendant in the suit, enables its clients to block e-mail
from Internet sites that do not follow MAPS policies. Harris Interactive,
which says the RBL blocking is currently affecting approximately 2.7 million
of its more than 6.6 million panel members, is seeking injunctive relief and
monetary damages from the defendants.
“We have been expecting that somebody would step up to the plate and finally
sue us, and we’re interested in establishing case law that says that our
servers are, in fact, our own private property, and we get to make the
decisions about what we carry and what we don’t,” said Kelly Thompson, MAPS
“I don’t see why Harris should expect that the government
would regulate what mail we accept into our servers, any more than we should
expect that the government should regulate who we admit into our house.”
Thompson claims that MAPS listed some of Harris Interactive’s resources in
its RBL after receiving complaints about their mailing practices. She said
Harris was unwilling to provide assurances that that they will protect the
rights of consumers by confirming that “the person to whom they are sending
e-mail actually wants to receive that e-mail.”
“We tried to work with them, but they were unwilling to make substantive
changes,” she said, “RBL listings are always a last resort.”
But Harris claims the RBL listing was totally unfair.
“MAPS based their
action on a complaint by a direct competitor of ours, whose motivation to
defame us appears to be based on our leadership in the marketplace,” said
Gordon Black, chairman and chief executive officer of Harris Interactive.