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Charity's Web site taken down after erroneous complaint about spam

Charity's Web site taken down after erroneous complaint about spam

A religious charity based in London found out last week that its Web site had been taken offline by its Internet Service Provider (ISP) after it had received an erroneous complaint that it had sent spam (unsolicited commercial e-mail).

The Lutheran Council of Great Britain found that its Web site was not available last week after its ISP Netcetera received one complaint that it had sent spam. The “complaint” was actually an automatically generated message, but Netcetera did not investigate its accuracy.

In fact, the message that triggered the “complaint” was legitimate: it was sent in response to an enquiry about one of the charity’s services. Nevertheless, it took seven days before the charity’s Web site was restored.

Such experiences are not uncommon. Automated anti-spam devices are one of the only ways in which Internet Service Providers can deal with the massive growth in complaints about spam e-mails. Given that few have the resources to investigate complaints, it is likely that other organisation’s Web sites, including those of charities, will be taken offline without notice.

How can charities respond? At the very least they need to ensure that their staff and volunteers never send material that could be considered to be spam. They should also be ready to counter and respond to any accusations of spam so that their site can be restored as quickly as possible. They might also consider maintaining alternative Web space under an alternative domain name on which they can launch a back-up version of their site until the issue is resolved. They will usually still be able to send e-mail from their disabled domain name, so could at least alert supporters and subscribers to the change. This is yet another reason for charities to develop and use a database of e-mail addresses of their supporters.

Read Charity caught in anti-spam crossfire by Matthew Broersma at ZDnet.

Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world's first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp.

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