DMA to Internet:
SHUT UP AND EAT YOUR SPAM
Table of Contents:
On January 10, 2000, the DMA launched its solution
to the problem of unsolicited broadcast e-mail: an opt-out list in which
consumers will be allowed to state their preference not to receive UBE
and which DMA members will be asked to honor. Although the DMA touts its
new list as a benefit to consumers, the DMA's approach is profoundly hostile
to consumers as well as the Internet infrastructure.
The DMA does not intend to allow ISPs to control
the use of their own private property, and the DMA is refusing to allow
ISPs to opt-out all of its customers from DMA promotional mailings. Even
though the DMA intends for ISPs and their customers to absorb the costs
of UBE, the DMA marketing plan seeks ISP support for a plan which harms
them for the benefit of direct marketers.
We must make certain that the DMA does not
succeed in gaining support for its bogus list which was conceived in fraud.
If you are an ISP owner or manager, please read the background information
below so you will be prepared when the DMA seeks your endorsement. If you
are customer of an ISP, please let your ISP know about this web page and
encourage them to withhold support for the DMA's bogus list which will
only ensure the distribution of more UBE.
The Direct Marketing
Association (DMA) is a leading proponent of unsolicited broadcast e-mail
("UBE" or "spam") as an advertising method. With the power of its generous
campaign contributions, the DMA has succeeded in getting sweetheart legislation
introduced in Congress and thwarting the progress of any meaningful anti-abuse
legislation at either the federal or state level.
Everything changed, however, when Rodney Joffe
and American Computer Group (ACG)
launched SAFEeps, the first and only
global opt-out service to receive any support from members of the Internet
The notion of a global opt-out list was itself
controversial, and many refused to support SAFEeps
for this reason. All previous attempts at developing global opt-out lists
had proven to be ineffective in reducing e-mail abuse. Moreover, the notion
of an opt-out list rested on a presumption that, rather than seeking permission
to use the resources of its targets, advertisers could direct as much promotional
material as they wanted to mailboxes of their choice until told to stop.
Almost all e-mailbox owners reject this idea,
and the experts are in agreement that such a scheme would have a catastrophic
impact on the e-mail delivery system and e-commerce.
was able to gather support due to several factors making it different from
ISPs, corporations, educational institutions and
other organizations would be able to pre-emptively opt-out all of their
with broad backing by the Internet community and direct marketers, actually
stood some chance of success of significantly reducing spam levels;
Despite grave misgivings, many members of the
Internet community who had been adamantly opposed to opt-out lists decided
to support SAFEeps in the spirit
of cooperation and compromise. SAFEeps
was the last best hope to make a global opt-out list work. If it failed,
it would settle permanently the issue of the viability of opt-out lists.
If it succeeded, owners of private property would be able to control the
use of their resources as they saw fit, and individuals could still receive
all of the promotional materials in which they were interested. SAFEeps
represented a fair and effective balance of the interests of marketers,
consumers and the owners of network equipment.
Rodney, with his close ties to both the DMA and
the direct marketing industry and the Internet and anti-spam communities,
could gain the trust of both groups and thus establish the critical mass
necessary to make a global opt-out list successful.
was an immediate hit. Within a week of its introduction, more than 40 million
e-mail addresses were shielded by SAFEeps,
with Hotmail and America
OnLine among the first to register.
Suddenly, however, the DMA was ready to talk
after ignoring the Internet community for years. Its leadership was frightened
by the success of SAFEeps, as well
as their recent failure to get S. 1618 passed by the House. DMA representatives
approached Rodney and asked him to put together a small group of experts
on e-mail abuse.
Meeting with the DMA and
This meeting took place at DMA headquarters in
Washington DC on 12/5/98. One of the participants reported on the meeting
in a newsgroup article (available
here), and a press release
was also issued. The meeting was covered not only by online news sources
such as Wired
but by The
New York Times as well.
Even though Rodney succeeded in putting together SAFEeps in less than two months,
the DMA took more than a year to develop a similar but much less capable
system. Rodney had offered to license SAFEeps
to the DMA for $1, but the DMA elected to hire its own contractor for its SAFEeps alternative, e-MPS.
The reasons for the DMA's rejection of Rodney's
generous offer became clear when the features of the DMA's alternative
to SAFEeps were finally unveiled,
and it became obvious that the DMA had been dealing in bad faith all along.
The length of time was merely a stalling tactic as the DMA developed a
system lacking any of the benefits of SAFEeps
and including all of the negatives of previous global opt-out lists.
The DMA's e-MPS
represents a complete abandonment of the agreements made by the DMA leadership
a year previously. Another participant in the 1998 meeting reported in
a newsgroup article (available
here) about how the DMA had reneged on every substantive agreement
to which it had committed.
The DMA leadership had agreed to honor the
rules of the forum pertaining to unsolicited bulk e-mail, and to promote
the use of opt-in marketing practices by its members. But in his 10/25/99
address at the DMA's 82nd Annual Conference and Exhibition, Bob
Wientzen didn't even mention opt-in except to denounce it:
[W]e also feel that most of those who push for
an opt-in-only regime have very little understanding of the incredibly
negative impact it would have on the future use of e-mail as a marketing
The DMA also reneged on its promise to support
a global opt-out list which would include the right of ISPs and other domains
to pre-emptively opt-out all of its users. Jerry
Cerasale made it clear in his 11/3/99
testimony to the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and
Consumer Protection that only individuals would be permitted to opt-out
of promotional mailings by the DMA's e-MPS.
More DMA Lies and Backpedaling
After the DMA's duplicity was exposed, it was
reported in a well-researched Salon
article. The DMA's Vice President of Ethics and Consumer Affairs, Pat
Faley, who was present at the meeting, asserts that the DMA's
e-MPS fulfilled the commitments it had made at the summit. Faley
also deprecated the significance of the meeting as nothing more than an
exchange of positions rather than an attempt to hammer out a workable compromise
which was the stated objective of the summit.
lies and knowing advocacy of theft perfectly illustrate DMA "ethics" and
its commitment to the consumer interest.
DMA Denies Private Property
Rights of ISPs
MAPS has obtained a copy of the DMA's marketing
plan for its bogus e-MPS and makes
it available for public review here.
Note that the DMA explicitly states that ISPs will not be permitted to
opt out its customers, and all other domains must first obtain the DMA's
permission before opting out. Domain opt-out evidently will not be available
when e-MPS is launched in January, nor does the DMA offer any information
on how long Internet users will be required to wait before domain opt-out
A key part of the DMA public relations plan
is to "get the philosophical and actual PR support of several major --
or multiple minor -- ISPs by the launch date". We must ensure that the
DMA does not succeed in deceiving any major or minor ISPs into believing
that the DMA advances the interests of anyone other than its members --
and at the expense of major and minor ISPs alike!
The DMA has confirmed that Internet service
providers will not be permitted to register their domains with e-MPS; see
In this article, Pat Faley, again
demonstrating the DMA's hypocritical notion of ethics, asserts that ISPs
do not have the right to control their own private property. Faley
claims that since ISPs already spend considerable amounts of money on filtering
unwelcome e-mail messages, "ISPs don't need an e-mail preference service."
This self-interested opinion is not supported by any facts whatsoever,
and, indeed, is controverted by a considerable body of evidence of which
the DMA is well aware.
DMA Leadership Condemned
The DMA leadership is being called to task for
its cluelessness and the missed opportunity to move forward in a cooperative
rather than adversarial manner. See Dana Blankenhorn's first
article and his follow-up.
Rodney Joffe, quoted in the Salon
article, has also published strong criticisms of the DMA leadership
in an open letter to DM News and copied to news.admin.net-abuse.email.
Rodney's letter is available here.
Ian Oxman, founder of the opt-in based bulk
e-mail service ChooseYourMail, also had harsh criticisms for e-MPS and
the DMA leadership in his essay "How
the DMA Supports Spammers" (text version available here). MAPS is pleased that some members of the
DMA understand the critical issues at stake here, and we hope they will
convince the DMA leadership to abandon their foolhardy plan.
The Direct Marketing Industry
and the Sham of Self-Regulation
The direct marketing industry has an atrocious
record of self regulation. All self-regulatory efforts thus far have served
the interests of direct marketers exclusively to the detriment of consumers.
Read more about the sham of direct marketing industry self-regulation here.
It is our hope that other organizations can learn from the past so they
will not be condemned to repeat it when it comes to the DMA and the direct
By Nick Nicholas,
last revised: July 20, 2004.