Major ISPs to Stand Firm on Anti-Spam Fight

AOL, EarthLink, Microsoft, and Yahoo! are expected to outline their progress against unwanted e-mail.

Looking to show a unified front against spam, the nation's top e-mail and Internet service providers -- America Online, EarthLink, Microsoft, and Yahoo! -- are expected to outline their efforts in stopping unwanted e-mail at its source.

Representatives from the coalition are scheduled to appear at a press conference Wednesday morning in Washington D.C. to talk about their collaborative efforts. The coalition is based on an anti-spam industry alliance formed in April 2003.

The ISPs have played this for maximum hype, putting out a terse announcement, then keeping their lips sealed about details. Spokespeople for Microsoft , EarthLink and Yahoo! told internetnews.com they could not divulge any information, not even the names of executives representing their companies. AOL's spokesperson was not available for comment.

AOL, Yahoo! and Microsoft are the initial members of an anti-spam coalition. In a joint press release issued at that time, the trio said they would concentrate on protecting consumers from receiving spam, preventing the use of e-mail services to send spam, and working with e-mail marketers e-mail to recommend technical approaches, policies and best practices to distinguish legitimate e-mail from spam. Since that time, EarthLink, then Comcast and British Telecom joined the group, which came to be called the Anti-Spam Technical Alliance (ASTA).

Although the announcement tomorrow is not being made on behalf of ASTA, a representative of Microsoft's PR agency told internetnews.com, "It's no coincidence that it's these four companies making a joint announcement. It is because of their industry alliance that they are working together on the announcement."

Individually and in small groups, the four leading e-mail providers have tried to battle the plague of spam. Last month, AOL and EarthLink filed civil actions against bulk e-mailers Thursday to combat the continuing spam flooding ISP servers. Yahoo! has improved on its SpamGuard software and Microsoft chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates recently outlined the company's efforts to create a so-called "Caller ID" system for e-mail. Both Yahoo! and Microsoft have given serious thought to the idea of e-mail "postage" that costs senders a small fee.

"If they have managed to actually coordinate and cooperate among themselves in an effort to advance the fight against spam, that's wonderful," said Anne P. Mitchell, CEO of the Institute for Spam and Internet Public Policy, an organization that consults with business and government.

Mitchell said that while the last few months held many hush-hush meetings of the alliance, most of the actions taken by these players are independent motions to establish themselves as the heavyweight.

"They seemed like efforts to draw a line in the sand to define their own sandbox," Mitchell said. "We've been saying forever that the only way to really take a toll on spam is by the ISPs cooperating. If they're really doing that, they're playing our song."






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