Flamethrower #8
Revenge of the Spammers

       In just four months, the Red Pages site was flamed out of existence. Conceived by Albuquerque's MiniTel phone company entrepreneur, Larry Host, the service had been created to address the direct-mail advertising, or spamming, controversy that has been and remains a source of endless debate on the 'net. In the same way that the Direct Mail Association holds the list of "do not mail to" postal addresses of individuals who don't want their home mailboxes bombarded with mountains of L.L. Bean and J.C. Penney merchant catalogs, the Red Pages service was designed to compile a list of Internet users who didn't want to receive unsolicited electronic advertisements, or spams, in their e- mail boxes. All a user would have to do to be listed in the Red Pages and removed from any potential commercial or spammer hitlist was to contact Host via e-mail, snail mail or phone.
       But thanks to a handful of self-anointed, self-important "spamhunters" (see "Fistful of Spam" issue 6) who mistakenly thought the site was somehow trying to promote spamming on the 'net, the Red Pages service, which was possibly the beginning of the end to the whiny and vengeful dispute, is now completely defunct. Host's carrier grew tired of the costly mail bombs (an anonymous user e-mailed a CD-ROM version of the Encyclopedia Britannica to Host's e-mail five times), and Host himself became frustrated with the radical "spamhunters" who had raised enormous expenses for him by continually dialing his 800 number. In fact, one crazed California resident redialed his 800 number 1,037 times, only to be outdone by an Ontario resident who called 2,131 times.
       Granted, Host's service might have been better received had he initially listed the entire Internet community's e-mails on the Red Pages' "do not mail to" list, instead of forcing users to sign up at his site. But the service was the start of a smart, employable idea. Host even managed to get the infamous spamming headman, Jeff Slaton (among others) to agree to respect the Red Pages service and not send unsolicited direct mail to users who signed up on the list.
       But when Slaton began helping Host with his Red Pages project by collecting e-mails of particularly irate spam-haters that he thought would want to be automatically added to the "do not mail to" list, an unreasonable spam witch hunt erupted -- spamhunters couldn't accept the fact that Slaton was upstaging them with Host's proposal to reach a compromise between advertisers and the Internet community. They killed the project just out of spite. According to Host, who's eminently cynical about the whole affair, "when certain people got wind of this project, they got new e-mail addresses just so that they could receive spams and continue their hobby of flaming."
       Well, Slaton rightly fought back. This past April, Slaton (it's presumed) spammed the Internet with an offer to sell Lightning Bolt 1.0 and 2.0, his proprietary spamming programs. Both Lightning Bolt Unix shell programs are capable of searching and finding e-mail addresses, and removing duplicate addresses and non-deliverables. The 2.0 upgrade is also capable of sending millions of spams to Usenet groups and private e-mail addresses while the user is logged off. Slaton has promised to sell 400 copies of Lightning Bolt 2.0, at a cost of $249, to interested Internet direct marketers.
       Now, these so-called spamhunters, with their affectations of righteousness and their high claims of bringing a sense of integrity to the 'net, have to contend with 400 newly born Slatons. And you know, while I would never condone spamming as it exists today, Slaton's response to sell his software seems appropriate -- a just response to those who preach 'netiquette and online virtue, but who are nothing more than a bunch of uncompromising ninnies who flame for fun.

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