Earthlink Drops Spam Charges Against Email Marketers Who Threatened To Sue Me

from the so-confusing dept

Long time readers may recall that, in 2003, we wrote about a NY Times article profiling two “email marketers” who, from the description in the article, appeared to be spammers under our definition of spam. In our comments, someone posted the contact info of both of the individuals. This somehow ticked them off something fierce, leading to a series of phone calls to me, threatening to sue on two different grounds: (1) I had misunderstood the NY Times article and (2) the fact that someone posted their publicly available contact info was illegal. This was bogus on both accounts. First of all, there’s nothing illegal about misinterpreting the NY Times article (whether I really did misinterpret the article is another question altogether). Second, since I didn’t post the contact info and we just offer an open forum, the law is pretty clear that Techdirt is not liable for what others post. On top of that, considering that the info was available elsewhere publicly (no additional info other than phone number, email and office address were included), it seemed somewhat ridiculous to say this broke the law. However, knowing they had no real legal claim against us, we still did decide to remove their contact info, in an attempt to set a good example for them and show that we don’t believe anyone should be spammed — even those accused of spamming themselves. If they wanted their info removed, so be it, we removed it (Slashdot later weighed in on the whole thing). Amusingly, about three weeks later, one of the two “email marketers” in question contacted me again, saying that their contact info was still viewable on the Google cache of the page and that it was my responsibility to “fix it!” which would be difficult, seeing as I have no control over Google (and figuring, correctly, that Google would overwrite the cache soon enough). I never heard from them again after that. However, the names of the two are burned into my memory, and so it caught my eye when Jeremy Wagstaff mentioned that Earthlink had dropped a lawsuit against the very same two “email marketers,” claiming that they’re now convinced that the two were victims of an identity theft scam — which was designed to make them seem as if they were spammers. Talk about confusing. The description suggests that whoever these real spammers are pretended to be these “email marketers” (who insist they’re legit) in order to get them into trouble. So, who was really doing the spamming? And who threatened to sue me in the first place?

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