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Microsoft E-Mail Looks Like Spam to Some Recipients

By Jonathan Krim
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 5, 2004; Page E01

For a year, Microsoft Corp. has extolled the virtues of the Can-Spam Act, which Congress passed in late 2003 to crack down on purveyors of unwanted bulk e-mail. The company, with other Internet and marketing firms, helped craft the act and has sued several spammers under its provisions.

But Bob Poortinga thinks the software giant is engaged in its own spamming.

Chief executive Steven A. Ballmer's mass e-mail promoting Microsoft products has caused a stir among spam opponents. (Phelan M. Ebenhack -- AP)

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Va. Spam Trial Reaches Closing Arguments (The Washington Post, Nov 2, 2004)
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Microsoft Judge Skeptical (The Washington Post, Oct 2, 2004)
E.U. Regulators Say Microsoft Had Agreed to Sanctions (The Washington Post, Oct 1, 2004)
Report: Microsoft

Last week, Poortinga got a lengthy "executive letter" from Microsoft chief executive Steven A. Ballmer touting Microsoft's Windows products for companies and other organizations.

The letter was one of a series sent by Microsoft to the technology community as part of a worldwide campaign by Microsoft to combat the growing popularity of the Linux operating system and other open-sourcesoftware.

Many businesses and government agencies have turned to open-source systems because they consider them to be less expensive, more secure alternatives to Microsoft's Windows software.

"I'm writing to you and other business decision makers and [information technology] professionals today to share some of the data around these key issues, and to provide examples of customers who opted to go with the Windows platform rather than Linux," Ballmer's message said.

Microsoft said Ballmer's e-mail did not violate federal anti-spam regulations. But anti-spam activists and legal experts said the message does not make it easy for people to remove themselves from future mailings, as required by the law.

Like many anti-spam activists, Poortinga, a Bloomington, Ind., programmer, has never been a fan of the Can-Spam Act. He said it is as much an effort to protect corporate marketers' ability to send unwanted e-mail as it is to block unsavory spam.

He said he never gave Microsoft the e-mail address to which Ballmer's note was sent. Poortinga said he primarily used that address to register Internet domains for hosting Web sites.

"It also shows that the Can-Spam Act is simply a worthless exercise in PR and it reinforces the widely held belief that Microsoft is so arrogant that they feel that they are not bound to conform to laws and standards," Poortinga said in an e-mail interview.

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