Disarranging Mine: A Journal


Journal

Saturday ::: July 13, 2002 ::: 12:22 a.m.

A little news journaling with a personal twist.

CNET's News.com has an interesting story titled, Canning spam without eating up real mail.

This is an article that tells the story of what happened to Audrie Krause. Ms. Krause runs a political action group which has a web site called, NetAction. One of the functions of her group is to educate and organize activists. One of the ways this is done is through members-only-e-mail lists. Recently her web site was "blacklisted" for spamming via one of her mailings. The thing is, though, she wasn't spamming. Ms. Krause is quoted in the article as saying:

"It's ironic because the work we do as an organization includes helping get the message out to other activists and nonprofits about how to use e-mail and the Net for outreach...without spamming."

As the article explains, there are various web sites out there to which you can report unwanted spam.

These anti-spam web sites carry a lot of weight on the Net. That is, they carry a lot of weight with respectable and legitimate businesses that have operations on the web, and with the general Internet public, but not with spammers.

Fortunately, Ms. Krause's blacklist problem was corrected within a day.

Off and on through the years, I've belonged to various e-mail lists across a wide range of topics and issues. And while I try to avoid opting in for e-mail advertisements, sometimes I've had advertisements sent to me. If it's a legitimate business, such as CBS.com, you can easily unsubscribe from their advertising without fear of getting more advertising or spam. Occasionally, I get an e-mail that I can't identify as something I actually signed up for and forgot about. One thing I do before I report an seemingly unwanted e-mail as spam is to try to verify to the best of my ability whether or not it is actually spam. Once I've identified it as spam, I use SpamCop. They walk you through all the steps which makes it a relatively easy procedure. The reporter remains completely anonymous to the spammer.

But what happens when someone you respect and trust and you consider to be a dear friend has your e-mail account shut down for alleged spamming? This is what happened to me.

About a month after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States and during the anthrax outbreak, my mother was on her way to play bridge at the Senior Center. As she was walking in the door, a lady handed her a piece of paper regarding a possible anthrax situation. I later found out that it was a hoax. It occurred to me that even though this was a paper that was handed to her by another human being, it could be classified as spam in a way. It was extremely upsetting to my mother.

Using my Hotmail account, I sent an e-mail to my dear friend describing what happened to my mother. In my e-mail I didn't ask him for any advice or input, but I thought for sure he would have something to offer. Instead, when I tried to log onto my Hotmail later that day, I got this:

Sign In Access Error Hotmail Account Closed. Access Denied.

Needless to say, I was shocked and dismayed, but it didn't occur to me that I had been shut down. I figured it was a technical glitch on Hotmail's part. Using a different Hotmail account, I began a course of communication with Hotmail as I filed a tech report with them. This was their response:

Hello :

Thank you for writing to MSN Hotmail.

This is Francis and I am writing you in response to your concerns about your Hotmail account.

We've confirmed the problem that you described to the Technical Support Staff and they are currently evaluating it. Your feedback is very important, and we evaluate feedback each week to prioritize future features and improvements. Unfortunately, I cannot give you specific dates on when you will see changes, but please know that we are working hard to update Hotmail and better serve your needs.

I apologize for any inconvenience this might have caused you. Thank you for your continued patience.

Remember that MSN Hotmail also has comprehensive online help available--just click "Help" in the upper right corner.

Sincerely,

Francis B.
MSN Hotmail Customer Support

I wrote her back, thanking her for her prompt reply and explaining that I couldn't understand why my account was closed, that I had that account for over two years, and had never abused it or any Internet services. I asked for the reason why that account was canceled.

To which they replied:

Thank you for writing to MSN Hotmail.

We have closed the account in question because of a violation of our Terms Of Use (TOU).

You can read our TOU at:

http://www.hotmail.msn.com/cgi-bin/dasp/hminfo_shell.asp?content=tos

Remember that MSN Hotmail also has comprehensive online help available--just click "Help" in the upper right corner.

Sincerely,

Alfred T.
MSN Hotmail Customer Support

It was just beginning to dawn on me why my account had been closed, so I sent Alfred the following:

Dear Alfred,

I read the TOU twice in the last 48 hours. I did not violate any of those terms. Like I said in my previous e-mail, I have never abused that e-mail account. Nor have I abused any other Hotmail or Microsoft services. Which TOU have I violated, specifically?

Well, I have had time to think about this. Here is what I think has happened:

Last week I sent an e-mail to an individual regarding an incident that happened to a member of my family in the wake of the September 11 Attack on America. Unfortunately, I have since learned that person holds a grudge against me and took that e-mail as an opportunity to exact some kind of revenge against me. I think he reported that e-mail to Hotmail as an abuse of the terms of use. Then, Hotmail, without investigating the veracity of the claim, went ahead and shut down [account name omitted]@hotmail.com.

That e-mail account held valuable information, which now appears to be lost forever. Is that correct?

Thank you,

In actuality, I hadn't just learned that the person held a grudge against me, but it was the only way I could think of to put it that might have an impact on Hotmail. Immediately after sending that, I sent another e-mail specifically requesting that my account be restored based on my statement to them. Unfortunately, it had no impact on them, because this is what I got back:

Thank you for writing us back.

For security and privacy reasons, we cannot give you further information regarding the status of this account. I appreciate your understanding.

When you signed up for your account with MSN Hotmail, you agreed to the Terms of Use (TOU) by clicking the "I Accept" button. As such, your account is subject to the Terms of Use.

For further information, please review the TOU at: http://www.hotmail.msn.com/cgi-bin/dasp/hminfo_shell.asp?content=tos

Remember that MSN Hotmail also has comprehensive online help available--just click "Help" in the upper right corner.

Sincerely,

Sophia B.
MSN Hotmail Customer Support

To which I replied:

>For security and privacy reasons, we cannot give you further information regarding the status of this account. I appreciate your understanding.

I did not ask for further information. I respectfully requested that my hotmail account be restored.

> When you signed up for your account with MSN Hotmail, you agreed to the Terms of Use (TOU) by clicking the "I Accept" button. As such, your account is subject to the Terms of Use.

I did agree to the terms and I kept that agreement.

I did not violate the terms.

However, MSN Hotmail chose to take the word of a third party who apparently holds a grudge against me, and without verification, CLOSED MY ACCOUNT.

Is that how MSN Hotmail operates? Is that how Microsoft operates?

This action on your part was totally uncalled for.

I am not a spammer. I am a 44 year old woman, an ordinary citizen of the United States.

But you have chosen to treat me as a second class citizen, a criminal.

That is very unfair and completely unwarranted.

I doubt that you will respond to this as it appears MSN Hotmail does not care for fostering goodwill among its customers.

Again, I reiterate, I did not violate any of your terms.

But then I got the following very surprising response:

Thank you for writing back to MSN Hotmail Service.

I have checked your account, and it appears to be functioning properly. Please try to sign in again using the password that you used on your last successful sign-in.

If you have forgotten your password, you can change your password instantly and easily with our automated Password Retrieval System at:
https://memberservices.passport.com/ppsecure/MSRV_ResetPW.asp

If you are typing your password correctly, but still can't sign in, try clearing your browser's cache and cookies.

[snipped a complete set of detailed instructions on how to clear cache in various versions of Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator.]

If you continue to encounter a problem with your account, send us another message with a detailed description. Let us know the exact steps you are using and where the process fails. Also include the exact text of any error messages that you receive.

Note: Your password is case sensitive, so be aware of any letters that you capitalize.

I apologize for the inconvenience you've experienced, and thank you for your continued patience.

Remember that MSN Hotmail also has comprehensive online help available--just click "Help" in the upper right corner.

Sincerely,

Romney V.
MSN Hotmail Service Support

Your satisfaction with my Customer Service is very important to me. If you consider your issue resolved, please click on the link below to let me know how I am doing. With your comments, please include my name and ticket number (found in this mail's subject line) to help me keep track of my performance.

Customer Service Survey: http://msn.surveyhost.com/hotmail/

I was shocked and amazed. I can't begin to express the good feeling that washed over me at this point. My efforts had worked and someone at Hotmail understood me and my predicament. My spirits were lifted and I felt so much better. I immediately went to the log-in screen and got the following message:

Sign In Access Error Hotmail Account Closed. Access Denied.

I was very upset, but didn't want to lose all hope, so I sent the following:

Hi Romney, Thank you for your e-mail tonight. I feel we are making progress, and that is a very good sign. You are restoring my faith in MSN Hotmail and Microsoft. But unfortunately, I'm still getting the same error message, as follows: Sign In Access Error Hotmail Account Closed. Access Denied. This occurred at 12:55 a.m. CST on October 15, 2001. I'm using IE 5.5 and I followed your instructions exactly and my password is correct. Which account of mine did you check? This one, or the one in question, [account name omitted]@hotmail.com? Is this situation hopeless? Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

And then I got this:

Thank you for writing to MSN Hotmail.

This is Janhiz and I'm writing in response to your inquiry.

For security and privacy reasons, we cannot give you further information regarding the status of this account. I appreciate your understanding.

When you signed up for your account with MSN Hotmail, you agreed to the Terms of Use (TOU) by clicking the "I Accept" button. As such, your account is subject to the Terms of Use.

For further information, please review the TOU at: http://www.hotmail.msn.com/cgi-bin/dasp/hminfo_shell.asp?content=tos

Remember that MSN Hotmail also has comprehensive online help available--just click "Help" in the upper right corner.

Sincerely,

Janhiz C.
MSN Hotmail Customer Support

At that point, I filed a complaint with http://msn.surveyhost.com/hotmail/, but never got a reply.

In retrospect, my initial e-mail to my dear friend probably did sound like spam.

Unfortunately, I never got my Hotmail account back. And, to this day, the person who had my account shut down has never addressed this issue with me. I'm over it and I only bring it up here for the value of lessons learned.


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