Re: Wanted: Your comments on “Intimidation or Free Speech” [cr-95/11/14]


Sender: •••@••.••• (David S. Bennahum)

When, this August, I announced the creation of MEME, my free online
newsletter on cyberspace and social issues, I sent an unsolicited
mailing out to around 600 people.  Their names came out of my Eudora
files .. i.e. each and every one of them had, at one point, sent me a
personal letter.  So I wrote a general mailing that read "Sometime in
the last 18 months we exchanged email and....etc.  etc."  About 8
people flamed me, 150 subscribed, and now MEME is up to 1,500 happy
readers.  But the point is, I started it with an unsolicited emailing.
I did not, however, grab names from newsgroups, etc.  Which somehow
made this mass mailing okay.

Anyway, the point is, sometimes a mass mailing is worthwhile.  This
guy was deep in a gray area, by offering to swap free information for
our time.  Certainly not worth dumping him from for that.
People all real self-congratulatory and snobbish on the Net sometimes;
it is a vulgar form of elitism which undermines our attempt at
reaching out to the majority of people in this world who are alienated
by technology and good candidates for becoming perpetual information
"have nots."  It reminds me of evangelicals feeling superior to the
new converts.


Sender: Lazlo Nibble <•••@••.•••>

> In the case of this guy sending out unsolicited email to plug his book, he
> toed that offensive line we're all so wary of -- unsolicited email junk.
> But at the same time, hey, this is part of the deal of cyberspace:
> sometimes I get unsolicited email that turns out to be *extremely*
> worthwhile, even leading to a story idea, etc.

I don't object to unsolicited email that's asking me a question about a
subject I have information on, or that attempts to inform me about or
start a discussion on a topic of mutual interest.  (I maintain a lot of
services on the net and the nature of many of my postings encourages
people to use me as an information resource -- as you say, that's "part of
the deal of cyberspace".)

I do object to unsolicted email that's nothing more than an attempt
to sell me something I have not expressed an interest in buying.  This
has *never* been "part of the deal of cyberspace", though many advertisers
are greedily attempting to make it so.

> In this case, this guy Philip Stills, offered something in return for
> your attention: a free look at the first chapter of his book.  I think
> that actually makes a difference, he is giving us free information in
> return for what cannot be more than a 30 second email hiccup.

"Madam, if you only allow me into your home I shall endeavor to
demonstrate to you the many features of this fine carpet cleaning

> Isn't this an acceptable by-product of having this power to contact 1,
> 100 or 10,000,000 people -- that some stranger is going to show up on
> your electronic doorstep and say, "hey, pay attention to this"?

No more than junk fax is an acceptable by-product of the power people now
have to and dump their latest ad sheet onto the desks of thousands of
businesses with the press of a button.  Junk email, like junk fax, uses my
resources (my fax paper, my phone line, my disk quota, my time) without my
permission and *without giving me the opportunity to say "no"*.  The fact
that the costs are, at present, only incremental (but becoming less so
every day) does not make them acceptable.

If someone wants to create a central registry of people who are interested
in certain topics and are willing to recieve junk email on those topics,
great -- let them create it, maintain it, and use it.  But until then,
advertisers should keep their unsolicited junk email out of my mailbox.

::: Lazlo (•••@••.•••;

 Posted by Andrew Oram  - •••@••.••• - Moderator: CYBER-RIGHTS (CPSR)
You are encouraged to forward and cross-post messages for non-commercial use,
pursuant to any redistribution restrictions included in individual messages.