E-Mail Coalition Aims for Relief Effort

Several e-mail marketers are putting aside their differences to boost the relief effort.

The firms, which of course normally compete for business, say they are working to put together lists to be donated to relief efforts — in an effort to facilitate and consolidate lines of communication in the aftermath of Tuesday’s horrific events.

As of press time, the coalition consists of Nashville, Tenn.-based SmartReminders.com; Chicago-based yesmail.com and MyPoints.com; Westlake Village, Calif.-based ValueClick; Marysville, Kan.-based Sendmoreinfo.com; and NetCreations, whose downtown Manhattan offices were cordoned off by authorities.

“This thing is gaining steam,” said NetCreations’ Michael Mayor, who is vice president of sales of the firm, and who is currently working from home. “Other e-mail marketers are joining NetCreations to form a coalition to donate names to relief efforts.”

While the group is still in the planning stages at the moment, Mayor said it’s aiming to have 10 million to 20 million addresses available next week.

Mayor also said the group is developing a special relief-effort footer — which appears at the bottom of distributed e-mail messages — “so our mailers can participate in spreading the word.”

But as the coalition hammers out its plans, reports are already circulating about the misuse of e-mail during the crisis.

Two San Francisco-based non-profits, the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail and the SpamCon Foundation, say they’re receiving reports of wildly inappropriate e-mail marketing efforts launched in the wake of Tuesday’s attacks — ranging from the callously offensive to the outright fraudulent.

According to the groups, spam poking fun of the attacks began appearing within one hour of the first World Trade Center crash. One such e-mail offered, “No terrorists here! Join our porn site, turn off the TV, quit watching the crap happening in the states, and join our free site!”

Worse, the groups also say they’re seeing e-mails that claim to solicit relief donations to the Red Cross or other charities — but which aim to direct contributions to private accounts. For instance, one e-mail they said they’ve seen claims that donations will go to the Red Cross — but an HTML link leads instead to an unconnected Web site.

The coalition of e-mail marketers also hopes to stamp out this sort of practice.

“NetCreations will not tolerate opportunists, scam artists and those seeking to capitalize on this week’s terrible events,” the firm wrote in a missive to its approximately 20,000 clients. “Any such campaigns will be flatly refused.”

Other Web marketers and e-tailers have taken similar steps to curb profiteering. eBay announced on Tuesday that it was forbidding the sale of any items related to the World Trade Center or Pentagon until October.

Despite the opportunity for large-scale abuse of the medium, Mayor said he’s optimistic about the Internet relief effort.

“I believe the Internet will prove to be an incredible disaster relief channel by helping those affected by this horrible act,” he said. “Large corporations and individuals alike have the power to help with just a couple of clicks of the mouse.”

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