24/7 Media Snags Restraining Order Against MAPS

Ad server and technology company 24/7 Media succeeded in getting a temporary restraining order against anti-spam non-profit Mail Abuse Prevention System, on behalf of 24/7’s email marketing subsidiary, 24/7 Exactis.

The order prohibits MAPS from listing mail servers belonging to Denver-based Exactis — which delivers mass email to recipients based on lists provided by clients — on MAPS’ Realtime Blackhole List.

The RBL database lists email servers that MAPS determines to be used by spammers. Many of the largest national ISPs subscribe to the RBL, and use the service to determine whether to block incoming email addressed to their subscribers.

About 150 mail servers belonging to 24/7’s email technology subsidiary Exactis were placed on the RBL.

Friday’s U.S. District court order forces MAPS and its subscribing ISPs to remove those servers from the RBL, and also to rescind any comments to ISPs that suggest that 24/7 sends spam.

“We don’t believe that any reasonable observer could contend that we are spammers,” said Cindy Brown, senior vice president and general manager at Exactis. “We support industry best practices and have been leaders in the prevention of spam.”

A MAPS official testified during proceedings that Exactis, which has sent more than four billion emails in 2000, was cited in fewer than a dozen complaints during this period.

With the order, 24/7 officials said that the company had been unfairly and unjustly added to the RBL.

“Following months of constructive negotiations,” read a statement from the company Friday, “MAPS abruptly and without warning” placed Exactis on the RBL.

But MAPS officials on Thursday told the media that 24/7 was to blame. The group said it began investigating complaints against spam from Exactis servers as early as April.

According to MAPS, the two groups reached a deal shortly thereafter, in which Exactis agreed that it would prevent unsolicited email from being sent through its servers, and would ensure that addresses on Exactis’ own email lists were fully verified.

MAPS online operations director Peter Popovich said the organization had been working Exactis since then yet continued to receive reports of unsolicited bulk mail from the company’s mail servers.

“Exactis is not following through on their commitment, and as a result we feel that we have no other option in stemming the steady stream of unsolicited email flowing from their mail servers but to list them in our RBL database,” Popovich said Thursday.

MAPS Director of Legal and Public Affairs Anne Mitchell Thursday added that responsibility falls on Exactis to ensure that its clients are not sending spam.

At the time, 24/7 withheld comment.

But following the ruling Friday, company officials were quick to point out what they considered MAPS’ misconduct.

“24/7 Media delivers more outbound email than any other company and manages the largest global database of fully permissioned email addresses,” said 24/7 chief executive officer David Moore. “Thus, we have more to gain than anyone from the promotion of legitimate methods of controlling unsolicited bulk email.

“We are actively encouraging all members of the industry to work together to develop definitive industry standards final guidelines that reflect consensus. We do not, however, believe that extortionate vigilante control of the Internet is the appropriate mechanism for achieving this worthy ends.”

Exactis also has a pending lawsuit asserting that its clients — and not Exactis — should be held responsible for unsolicited commercial email sent by clients, for whom it handles delivery of bulk email.

The Redwood City, Calif.-based MAPS has previously been sued by several email technology companies and clients. A suit against MAPS by CMGI’s Yesmail, which operates similarly to Exactis, ended in August with Yesmail agreeing to use only fully verified lists.

In July, online polling firm Harris Interactive filed suits against MAPS and several of its subscribing ISPs, including America Online and Microsoft’s MSN Hotmail. The company dropped its lawsuits in September after Hotmail agreed to accept its email.

Representatives from MAPS were unable to comment on the ruling because the suit also contains a gag order, but earlier in the week, Anne Mitchell, the group’s director of legal and public affairs, said that MAPS feels lawsuits are the best way to win court sanction for its anti-spam efforts.

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