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Country: United States of America
State: Nevada
Long-time spam operation who have worked their way through most of the "fashions" in spam. Most recently involved in snowshoe spam through affiliate marketing programs. The company is owned or managed by a Bill Waggoner.

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MEDIA: Confessions of a Spam King

Confessions of a Spam King
Published: September 28, 2003




Another spammer I spoke with, Bill Waggoner, who operates out of Spam Beach West (aka Las Vegas), drew the same distinction. ''Spam is scam,'' said the part-time heavy-metal musician and shortwave talk-radio host who was, according to Rokso, ''one of the Top 10 spammers in the world.'' He claims that all his bulk e-mail is ''clean,'' meaning that each one has a good ''return'' address, contains a working ''remove'' link and sells legitimate goods and services. I couldn't resist pointing out to Waggoner that he has publicly admitted that he pushes an herbal penis-enlargement pill.

''That's not fraud,'' he said. ''If it was fraud, the company wouldn't make any money.'' When I tried to pursue this suddenly slippery definition of fraud, he quickly added, defensively, ''The only sex product I sell is the penis-enlargement pill.''

This debate about good and evil isn't going on just among spammers; it is also currently under way in Congress. Some kind of spam law will probably emerge from Washington in the next year. And it will be the first test of populist digital legislation in Congress since the creation of the Internet.

In the weeks leading up to the August recess, the spam fight in the House got pretty intense. There are two main competing bills, which basically track the two strands of this emerging philosophical argument. The leading one, written by Representative Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, and sponsored by two influential Republican representatives, F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin and Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, more or less codifies Colbert and Waggoner's view.

As first written, the Burr bill was meant to outlaw only fraudulent spam, in order to protect commerce on the Internet. ''From our point of view, we are trying to retain e-mail as a legitimate form of commercial activity,'' one Burr staff member said. ''If you want to sell a product, you should be able to do that with e-mail.''

But the public debate on spam is changing fast. Within a few weeks, the momentum moved away from the power brokers like Sensenbrenner and Tauzin and toward less known representatives whose proposals are tougher -- mainly Heather A. Wilson, a Republican from New Mexico, and Gene Green, a Democrat from Texas.

''The Burr bill approaches the problem from the point of view of commerce,'' Wilson observed delicately. ''We approach it from a consumer perspective.''

A core debate regarding spam turns on how you are allowed to say no to spam -- a debate that boils down to the phrases ''opt in'' and ''opt out.'' ''Opt in'' is the toughest; it requires that all bulk e-mailers get your permission before sending any spam. ''Opt out'' allows spammers to flood your mailbox all they want, as long as each individual e-mail message contains a link permitting you to stop all future spams from that one business. This summer, the ''opt out'' provision was the one favored by most members of Congress because it gave marketers and business the greatest leeway. But as the representatives sped toward their summer recess and the levels of spam in their constituents' in-boxes spiked to record-high levels, it suddenly seemed like ''opt out'' was no longer acceptable.

''We are at a tipping point,'' Wilson confessed. ''We may have to get more radical in our solution.''


Jack Hitt is a contributing writer for the magazine.

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Link to full New York Times story from

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