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Anti filter

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ClickZ contributor and email marketer Paul Soltoff doesn’t like spam filtering software. In "Filtering Our Rights Along With Our Email?," Soltoff laments the fact that anti-spam filters are catching marketing messages, newsletters, and other corporate communications that aren’t spam.

Soltoff sees the spam wars as a question of rights. But where spammers speak of the right of the marketer to send mailings, Soltoff is worried about the right of the consumer to receive email that they have asked for. While I mostly agree with his point that users need to be in control of filtering, I disagree with the broad generalizations he makes and his implied solution.

Soltoff says, "Companies underwriting the development of this software view any solicitation as spam, regardless of whether it was requested by the recipient. In essence, they are willing to prevent email from reaching individuals who want them under the guise of saving consumers from drowning in a sea of spam."

Is this true? Soltoff’s personal opinion about the motives of anti-spam developers is presented as fact. The developers of SpamAssassin don’t appear to want to block legitimate mail from legitimate companies. In fact, the SpamAssassin filters specifically identify mailing lists and words commonly found in legitimate commercial messages and reduce the spam score of such messages. SpamAssassin also passes through email from verification services like Habeas and the Bonded Sender Program. In the eyes of most spam filter developers the single worst thing that can happen is a false positive. It is better to let some spam slip through than to falsely filter a legitimate message.

Soltoff appears to want an end to filtering so he can make sure his clients messages get through. He says he doesn’t want someone else filtering his email. He wants email users to have the choice of reading or ignoring email that is sent to them.

But what if that email user is at work? In the United States, your work email box doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to your employer. Your employer has the right to filter your mail to improve your productivity, eliminate pornography, or any other reason.

For the most part, consumers using their ISP’s mail servers already have the choice whether to have their mail filtered. Many ISPs and free Web mail providers offer spam filtering as an option. The user can turn it on and off. Others tag mail that is suspected to be spam, but leave it up to the end users as to what to do with that mail. People using providers that don’t make filtering optional still can choose to switch providers.

Rather than complain about the state of spam filtering, Soltoff should work toward keeping his client’s messages from being filtered by ensuring that they don’t look like spam. And if he wants to truly help email marketers, he should write a column on how to prevent your email from triggering spam filters. I’ll even help him research and write it.

August 28, 2002 3:46 PM

"Manual trackback" :-) You might be interested in the following URL:

This discussion has been closed.

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