/ 1 October 2008

Spammers beware!

Spammers beware! South Africa’s Internet Service Provider Association (Ispa) is out to name and shame you.

Last week Ispa launched its first hall of shame report that lists the top five South African spammers.

On the list are Database Development, Dynamic Seminars, ILLUDER.com Marketing, James Munro and The Peer Group.

It appears that the hall of shame is working, because within hours of it being published one of the companies listed, ILLUDER.com, contacted Ispa to negotiate how it could be removed from the list.

Ispa’s general manager, Ant Brookes, said it will be releasing the hall of shame reports every two months.

“We want to keep local spammers on their toes,” he said. “There isn’t much South African ISPs can do about spam from the rest of the world, but the least we can do is make sure that South Africa is not contributing to the spam problem.”

He said South African-generated spam is minimal when considered in the context of the global picture.

“South African spam makes up less than 1% of the total spam people receive on their machines,” said Brookes.

He said this is little when you consider reports from Ispa’s members indicate that almost 85% of traffic on most busy mail servers is spam.

“It is positive that South Africa is not a significant source of spam.”

ILLUDER.com Marketing’s Wesley Peters said the company was quite upset to find out that it was included in the list and immediately contacted Ispa to rectify the problem.

“We discussed with them the reasons we were put on the list and they went through some guidelines with us and there were one or two little things that were getting us on the list,” said Peters.

Brookes said ILLUDER.com has agreed to get its database in order and has committed, in writing, to fixing the problem areas.

He said that ILLUDER’s approach was great because the main objective of the spammer’s hall of shame was to educate people.

“ILLUDER was good, they have bent over backwards and agreed to do whatever it takes to clear their name,” said Brookes. “They realised the damage being listed does to their brand.

“We will be signing an agreement with them next week that will bind them to their commitments.”

The spammers’ hall of shame has been well received by consumers, with many leaving comments on consumer activism website MyADSL.

These are some of the comments:
“Dynamic Seminars and Peer Group, they seem to get in everywhere,” said Slootvreter.

“Agreed — I receive numerous of their junk mails, was not sure everyone else did as well until now,” said RPM. “Great initiative by Ispa, well done to them.”

“Job well done Ispa, would be nice to have a top 10 and those IPs should be blocked,” said Rehd.
A user named Beri had a novel solution: “Spam the spammers I say.”

Brookes said Ispa decided spam would be a key focus area for the organisation in 2008 and so it allocated some budget to its anti-spam working group to keep track of South African spammers.

Brookes said Ispa had designed a rigorous set of criteria to identify spam.

To make the hall of shame, a spammer must be reported three times by different Ispa members and at least two of these reports must be within a 30-day period.

Brookes said the content must be unsolicited and be promoting something.

“We have a spam reporting system in place that tracks all the spam that is reported by our members and then our working group combs the results looking for serial spammers,” he said.

Brookes said to test the spam hall of shame, Ispa ran internal reports from November last year until now.

The Peer Group’s Clive Price said it was proud of promoting education in South Africa, but obviously the company was not proud to be on the spammers’ list.

“If we could find a way of getting our message to the consumer in a less obtrusive way, we would,” said Price.

Price said The Peer Group relies on clients who enjoyed their training courses to recommend people to contact and because 90% of the feedback is excellent, the referrals are high.

“As soon as we get someone who wants to unsubscribe from their list, we do that immediately,” said Price. “We never try to keep them on the list.”

Attempts to contact Database Development and James Munro were unsuccessful and Dynamic Seminars’ Brian Jude failed to respond to the Mail & Guardian’s request for comment.