Pollster Sues over Placement on Spam List

FRAMINGHAM (08/01/2000) - Harris Interactive Inc. has filed suit in U.S.

District Court in Rochester, N.Y., against more than a dozen Internet companies and an antispam organization for improperly identifying the market-research firm as a spammer and blocking its e-mail to users.

The suit also takes aim at a rival firm, Incon Research Inc. in Norwalk, Conn.

Harris alleges in the suit that Incon filed a complaint against Harris with Mail Abuse Prevention System LLC (MAPS) in Redwood City, Calif.

MAPS is a members-supported organization that maintains a list of spammers called the Realtime Blackhole List.

That list is distributed to Internet and e-mail service providers such as America Online Inc., Microsoft Corp.'s Hotmail, Juno Online Services and BellSouth Corp., which, along with several other services, have blocked Harris Interactive e-mail from reaching their users, Harris charges.

Martin P. Roth, principal at Incon, was unavailable for comment .

Dan Hucko, a spokesman for Harris Interactive, said that when Harris Interactive called MAPS and the Internet service providers to complain, MAPS told the market researcher that Roth had filed the complaint.

MAPS spokeswoman Kelly Thompson said that without seeing the lawsuit, she couldn't comment or confirm that Incon filed the original complaint.

Hucko said one intention of the lawsuit is to get federal legislators to clearly define the difference between proper e-mail and spam.

In the case of Harris Interactive, he said, all recipients have filled out a form at the Harris Interactive Web site, or at another site like Excite.com, and requested to be included in the surveys. Upon submission, potential participants are sent a confirmation e-mail, which includes a link to take themselves off the survey list permanently, and that link is included in each survey sent.

"We never send out ... just blanket e-mail," Hucko said, "We don't support spamming, and we don't engage in it."

The MAPS approach to stemming the nuisance is inefficient, he complained.

"The ISPs tend to almost kind of blindly listen to MAPS," Hucko said, adding that the application of antispam policies is uneven.

Last week, Yesmail.com, an outsourcer of permission e-mail marketing services, successfully negotiated with MAPS to take it off the Blackhole list.

In a press release, Paul Vixie, managing member of MAPS, said, "Once we started peeling back the covers on this, it turned out that Yesmail.com's stated business interests and the policies they were willing to put in place made them ineligible for listing on the Realtime Blackhole List."

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