The following speech was prepared with the intention of using portions of it during the FTC Spam Summit, but CAUCE was not given the opportunity to participate due to time constraints.
My name is Neil Schwartzman. Beyond — as I noted yesterday — representing Return Path Inc. here at this conference, I have a second life, as it were, as the Executive Director of CAUCE in North America. CAUCE is the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email, a consumers' rights advocacy group.
I am here today to question. Yesterday we heard how the tenor of the discussion about spam became more mature. How, in the period of time that has elapsed since the last summit, things have developed as an industry.
That may be true, but I question if the discussion at hand here this week is truly a big tent effort. I see few anti-spammers here. I see only one blacklist operator, and no filtering service providers here. I see no consumer organizations here. Heck, I don't see but one spammer on the panels.
I didn't see anyone challenge him during his attempts to cast himself as a legitimate business man, no-one mentioned his attempts to bribe staff at at least one large receiving site to accept his mail, or his efforts to open a school for spammers. Where is former FTC Commissioner Orson Swindle and his "couple of public hangings" when you need him, and them?
I do see my friend and colleague Al Iverson, formerly of MAPS, who now works for an ESP, present.
I do see Suresh Ramasubramanian who does so much for CAUCE in other parts of the world, representing an ISP/ESP, Outblaze, here.
I see Ray Everett-Church, another long-time CAUCE board member, represent the competition to Return Path newly at a company called Habeas. I used to work there, actually.
I see the man who I affectionately and half-jokingly blame for having invented email, Dave Crocker, as a paid consultant for Goodmail, another of our competitors.
And Tara Natanson, a fearsome abuse desk minion who now works for an ESP, and Dennis Daymann — he wears many hats, but anti-spammer isn't one of them any longer, per se.
And me. I too have had to take paying work to subsidize my efforts on behalf of consumers.
Of course, all my friends I just mentioned will argue anti-spamming is in the blood and that is darn true. The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, that the anti-spam community was born out of a frustration on the part of individual mail recipients who banded together.
We banded together to form consumers' rights organizations like CAUCE and the now-defunct Spamcon Foundation, and blacklists like MAPS and the Spamhaus Project, born from the decidedly non-commercial notion of a desire to share one person's knowledge with the community of systems administrators who were looking to staunch the incredible flow of spam.
There are the lawsuits trying to shut down those services that protect so much of the Internet. Yet, nary a word about that here over the entire two days.
The marketers in this room need to appreciate that yes, you sometimes run afoul of the DNSBL operators, but without them, I can assure you, you would have nowhere to ply your trade. The email systems would fold instantly without efforts like the Spamhaus block list. Their SBL, their CBL — these are run by volunteers, and given away to the Internet community for free.
This assemblage is poorer for not having those voices contributory to the discussion. Please allow me some brief moments to rectify this as best I can.
For those in attendance here today, please remember, the magic in email, its intrinsic value is not as a medium of transportation of commercial concerns, not of the ability of an advertiser to help someone sell someone else something. No; think about your own inbox. What is the preponderance of the mail in there? What mail do you read first? It is the individual communications between colleagues at work, from your friends and those whom you hold dear in your life that are occupying the prestige space in your inbox.
That is the power of email: when you get a little spark, a little lift when an email comes in from a long-lost friend, or yes, your boss (albeit a lift of a different kind.)
I defy any of the advertising concerns here to say that they have content as satisfying and relevant to the life of a recipient as when you see baby pictures from a friend for the first time, sent to you from the other side of the world. My friend in Li Jiang, China — William Lu — recently showed me his second child via his account at Hotmail. How wonderful an experience to share with William and his wife, from my home thousands of miles away from theirs. So thank-you to Hotmail for having facilitated that.
Email is a one-to-one communication that has the capacity to be one-to-many, and it is the abuse of this latter that we are all concerned about. We are all fighting the good fight, some with different motivations than others. Personally, the cause I am fighting for isn't so I can get a special offer on something, it is so I can write to a friend and have dinner with her in Dublin, or Bejing, or Nairobi, the next time in I'm in town.
Yes, I have a lot of friends. And, I have a lot of precious email. So let us remember that while advertising is important as a business, this discussion the past two days has almost had the tenor of the billboard advertisers at a sports stadium fighting to keep a team in town, instead of the fans of the Montreal Expos — sorry, the Washington Capitols making that same argument.
Email is a wonderful, powerful form of communication. We may all allow marketers into our inboxes as passably acceptable guests, but that is not why we send email, and love receiving it, and the point-to-point communicative aspects is what we must all strive to save for individual end-users of the medium.
The voice of consumers, more than 25,000 CAUCE members say we do need and want more and better laws and law enforcement, not band-aids and concessions to marketing concerns. Consumers want protection, and demand it of their elected officials and the enforcement agencies.