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In an attempt to use self-regulation to stave off government interference, some of the largest Internet marketing companies have formed a group that has proposed standards it says will prevent unwanted commercial e-mail. The group says the standards will be based on privacy guidelines laid out by the Federal Trade Commission. The Responsible Electronic Communications Alliance marks the latest effort by online marketers to lobby for industry self-regulation and to set and enforce standards. The group represents a cross section of some of the industry’s biggest e-mail marketing firms, including message servers DoubleClick and 24/7 Media, direct marketer Acxiom and address-list broker American List Counsel. If the group can reach an agreement with the FTC on commercial e-mail before Congress addresses the issue, legislators and government officials are less likely to move against the industry. RECA also wants to improve the industry’s image regarding privacy issues, says President Chris Wolf, a lawyer for Internet companies on topics including e-commerce, privacy and antipiracy work. “The primary motivation is that they recognize that they have to give consumers a sense of control and security if this industry is to flourish,” Wolf says. “The other motivation is that they recognize that if they don’t issue some measure of control over themselves, the government will regulate it.” The group says it’s basing the privacy guidelines on an FTC report outlining appropriate business practices for online sites and Internet marketers. In a press release Monday, RECA said its members will send messages only to willing recipients � thus, none will participate in spamming. RECA’s proposed rules also include a requirement that e-mail marketers give recipients a way to unsubscribe from lists and register complaints. RECA has posted its proposed guidelines on its Web site, and it plans to finalize its standards in the first quarter after seeking comment from the public, privacy advocates and FTC officials. Online marketing companies are concerned about the potential impact of government regulation on their business. Several dozen bills on Internet privacy have been introduced in Congress, and the topic has become a major campaign issue this year. David Moore, CEO of 24/7 Media, said visits with congressmen in Washington had convinced him that they were less likely to act in harmful ways if they thought the industry would police itself. “With everything going on in this space and all the abuses going on, we thought it was time for us to take a proactive stance to protect the rights of consumers, but also the rights of marketers to take advantage of the benefits of using e-mail,” Moore says. Internet business lobbyist Peter Arnold will serve as the group’s executive director, highlighting its focus on governmental affairs. Arnold recently held the same position for an industry group that lobbied against government regulation of high-speed Internet access. He also is the former spokesman for an association of high-tech companies that in 1998 lobbied successfully for the Internet Tax Freedom Act. Once the standards are adopted, the group will monitor members’ compliance. Members will be allowed to display a membership seal to show they meet the standards. If the group finds that members are not following them, they lose the seal and membership in the group, Wolf said. Related Articles from The Industry Standard: Spammers, Keep Out Ask Nettie: Spam Your Customers Will Love No Spam, Please � We’re From Colorado Copyright � 2000 The Industry Standard

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