Leopard Changes Spots, Jungle in Shock
Talk about a makeover: One of the most reviled and resilient figures on the
Internet used a high-stakes public forum last month to recant his previous
activities, and promised to behave in a responsible and law-abiding manner.
Imagine the astonishment of the audience gathered at the Great Spam Debate
in Philadelphia January 26 when an anticipated slugfest between
arch-spammer Sanford Wallace and antispam lobbyist Bill Weinman turned out
to be the locus of Wallace's complete capitulation.
After an opening salvo by Weinman that characterized Wallace and his ilk as
oppportunists in a vulnerable new medium, the butt of his remarks took the
mike and... apologized!
Amazement turned to glee as Wallace went on to express his support for
legislation controlling spam online, and systematically apologized to each
of the 10 or so participants who had been brought in to provide firsthand
testimony of the misdeeds perpetrated by Wallace's notorious Cyber
Wallace went on to say that Cyber Promotions was probably out of commission
for the foreseeable future, a result of the massive animosity it had
accrued during its existence, including death threats against Wallace.
At forum, Spam King promises that he's
The CompuDudes / Peter Cook and Scott Manning
Here it comes, we thought, as Wallace leaned toward the microphone.
He quietly acknowledged that there was "too much obnoxious e-mail advertising
out there on the Web" and said that he was sympathetic to people who received
spam. He said he was a reformed spammer and would mend his ways and send only
targeted e-mail, not mass bulk mailings. He even said he was leading a
movement to encourage other spam companies to clean up their acts.
He then apologized for his company's bulk e-mailing practices. He said he was
wrong to pursue an aggressive business practice that resulted in many Internet
"vigilantes" pursuing him and sending him life-threatening messages.
The audience was stunned. As far as we know, it was the first time the Spam
King had publicly said he was sorry for Cyber Promotions' practices. We
couldn't help wondering if he was sincere or just putting us on.
However, one might think that death threats by phone and e-mail could change
a person's business strategy. Not to mention multiple lawsuits leveled at
Wallace by big-name Internet players such as America Online and CompuServe,
and even the maker of the real Spam, Hormel.
The crowd broke into wild cheers when Wallace revealed that for the last fou
months Cyber Promotions had been off the Web and said he didn't think it would
be back any time soon.
"I couldn't put a Web site up for more than two hours these days without
someone getting upset and yanking it off the Internet," he admitted.
[Bottom line: there is an element of "if I can't get my hand in the cookie
jar, nobody else should, either", but I still think he deserves thanks as a
decent human being afrter all this for apologizing. --RK]