Anti-Spam Organization Vows to Fight Lawsuit

Anti-spam organization Mail Abuse Prevention System plans to fight a lawsuit filed this week by online market researcher Harris Interactive Inc.

The suit seeks to stop Microsoft, AOL and other ISPs from using MAPS “Realtime Black Hole” list to block its email.

Harris alleges that Internet service providers which subscribe to MAP’s Realtime Blackhole List (RBL) email blocking service — such as AOL, Microsoft, and Qwest — are wrongfully blocking the market research firm from corresponding with its registered, online panelists.

MAPS, named as a defendant in the suit, enables its clients to block email from Internet sites that do not follow MAPS policies. Harris Interactive, which says the RBL blocking is currently affecting approximately 2.7 million of its more than 6.6 million panel members, is seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages from the defendants.

“We have been expecting that somebody would step up to the plate and finally sue us, and we’re interested in establishing case law that says that our servers are, in fact, our own private property, and we get to make the decisions about what we carry and what we don’t,” said Kelly Thompson, MAPS spokesperson.

“I don’t see why Harris should expect that the government would regulate what mail we accept into our servers, any more than we should expect that the government should regulate who we admit into our house.”

Thompson claims that MAPS listed some of Harris Interactive’s resources in its RBL after receiving complaints about their mailing practices. She said Harris was unwilling to provide assurances that that they will protect the rights of consumers by confirming that “the person to whom they are sending email actually wants to receive that email.”

“We tried to work with them, but they were unwilling to make substantive changes,” she said, “RBL listings are always a last resort.”

But Harris claims the RBL listing was totally unfair.

“MAPS based their action on a complaint by a direct competitor of ours, whose motivation to defame us appears to be based on our leadership in the marketplace,” said Gordon Black, chairman and chief executive officer of Harris Interactive.

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