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BBC News experiment overloads brain cells of editors

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I found out last night that BBC News ran a story and video about spam that clearly shows my website Free UK Stuff and domain name and screen shots from the website and double opt-in email sign up system.

What is unbelievable in this “experiment” conducted by McAfee is that they have totally no clue about what is email communications for registered site users and what is spam, the stuff you get that you never agreed to. If you watch the video you will be left thinking Free UK Stuff sells on your email address and you will get thousands of spam messages because of it, its totally shocking just how poor the editorial process has been in allowing these slanderous lies to make it on to the web as if it was news worthy facts.

I have run Free UK Stuff since 1997 and have over 1/4 of a million users. Since 2000 we operated a very strict double opt-in system that records the person that joined, at what time, from where, what browser they used and so on to prove without a shadow of a doubt that someone has asked and then click on a link to complete the sign up process to join the Free UK Stuff Members Newsletter, a weekly email that tells members what is going on at the site and often features 2 or 3 site sponsors or adverts. This is all clearly stated to the members before they join and they can opt-out automatically at anytime.

So I have done some research on the person that joined our site and who agreed to receive our newsletter, and here is what I found.

Log Evidence

She first arrived on the site having searched Google for “free stuff”.

82.10.200.6 – – [09/Apr/2008:09:42:08 +0100] “GET / HTTP/1.1” 200 6014 “http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=free+stuff&meta=” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 5.1; .NET CLR 2.0.50727)”

She then started the process to join the site 1m 47s later.

82.10.200.6 – – [09/Apr/2008:09:43:55 +0100] “POST /cgi-bin/join.pl HTTP/1.1” 200 10675 “http://www.freeukstuff.com/join.html” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 5.1; .NET CLR 2.0.50727)”

3 days later she finally clicks the link to join the site as a member, the only email she had from us was at 9.43am asking her if she wanted to be a member, 3 days later she decided that yes she did and completed the double opt-in process. An email was then sent welcoming her as a member.

82.10.200.6 – – [12/Apr/2008:12:35:12 +0100] “GET /gsgxCihwbdgxrvrdvAyx/h HTTP/1.1” 200 20325 “http://webmail.mcafeespamexperiment.com/horde/imp/message.php?index=8” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 5.1; FunWebProducts; .NET CLR 2.0.50727)”

3 hours later, when she was filmed for the video showing on the BBC Website she clicked the link again, and this is what they filmed.

82.10.200.6 – – [12/Apr/2008:15:41:11 +0100] “GET /gsgxCihwbdgxrvrdvAyx/h HTTP/1.1” 200 20327 “http://webmail.mcafeespamexperiment.com/horde/imp/message.php?index=8” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 5.1; FunWebProducts; .NET CLR 2.0.50727)”

Time Line of BBC News Video

Here is the time line of the BBC News video destroying our hard earned reputation as being the UK’s number one Free Stuff website.

0.07s – Site name is clearly visible on screen, it’s the only one highlighted with a blue bar.

0.43s to 0.48s – Site web address is clearly shown on screen, they roll over and highlight it.

0.48s to 0.51s – They click on the email from Free UK Stuff will talking about the “spam” that arrived.

0.52s – you can clearly see the link you must click on order to join our double opt-in email newsletter, If you compare that part of the video with our log evidence you can clearly see this is the same persons email.

01.01s – she claims that by clicking on our link, the one she just clicked on again that it generated “more spam” now it’s funny how she could know this as if you look at the log evidence above you will see she was only a member of the site 3 hours before they filmed her clicking the link again. Clicking the link again won’t make you a member twice, as you have already joined, so you get sent to the welcome screen.

01.06s – she says it’s not just her, and that her 14 year old daughter is receiving daily emails, then we see footage of her going on about spam that has nothing to do with us what so ever but if you watched this “news” piece you think we are the worlds worst spammers and not a shred of evidence to say we have ever spammed anyone yet we feature so highly in this report.

What makes this all even more unreal is that we are regularly asked by different BBC departments to list “freebies” such as games, show tickets and so on our site http://www.freeukstuff.com/atoz/b.html I wonder if this lady signed up to the BBC mailing lists that they would consider their own mailing lists spam also, because that’s what this news article is saying in this day and age it is preferable to send an email instead of chopping down trees to send a letter, that irresponsible and reckless reporting destroys the reputation of hard working people like myself can pass as a worthy news story. Not once did the BBC contact us in the making of this news article.

  • View the BBC News Article here, view the video and compare the times above.

  • Visit Free UK Stuff.

  • Make a complaint about this shockingly poor news story to the BBC and help educate them on what is spam, note if enough people complain and more than enough Affiliate voices around, they have to publish a response to this. It’s very easy to do, just email, write or call the complaint line.

This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. Hi ya Clarke, I have written an email of complaint to the BBC to support you and have linked to your evidence here.

    Best of luck with it mate.

    Baz

  2. It’s ridiculous just how bad reporting can get and I would certainly expect more from the BBC. The lack of actual investigation and evidence gathered on their end is incredible!
    For what it’s worth I submitted a complaint, you never know you might get a nice apology on prime time TV 😉

  3. This is shockingly bad journalism on the behalf of the BBC. I expected far better from the Beeb.

    It seems like I have known Clarke almost forever, and he’s one of the most genuine and honest guys I’ve ever met; I’d trust him with my life. It’s so absurd that the BBC is implying spam may come from his site Free UK Stuff.

  4. I hope you get an apology.
    Complaint sent.

  5. Complaint submitted, I hope they apologise. Extract: “I thought the way his site was portrayed as an example of a site that would in any way send unsolicited email, or sell their data to others that would, was slanderous and completely without basis.”

  6. Pretty shocking, I’ve sent in my compliant as well.

  7. I hope you get an apology.

    Complaint sent.

  8. I am in complete agreement with you guys on this, the BBC report was completely stupid, not just for victimizing your site but it was completely pointless media propaganda just to make a buzz word out of SPAM.
    The media are doing this more and more often and ruining sites and programs in the process by making the average viewer have a negative opinion of things they know nothing about.

  9. Totally agree. Complaint submittted……best of luck with it Clarke

  10. Hi Clarke

    I have just submitted a complaint to the BBC encouraging them to make contact with people who understand this industry.

    I will let you know if i hear anything for reference here is my complaint:-

    I have just seen this video message highlighting people who are very trustworthy people in the industry of affiliate marketing and being classed as spammers is a disgrace.
    I can not believe that you are willing to let someone who obviously knows nothing about internet spam make a video that could be that damaging to this persons company.
    I would seriously reconsider leaving this video on your site without asking other people their opinions on these companies, i have always thought the BBC tried to be factual instead of listening to people who have no understanding of what spam actually is.
    I would encourage some of management level to consider this and even contact me on 08708031366 to discuss this and get a response to this article from people who understand this industry.
    If i hear nothing from you i will just guess that you do not believe in telling your viewers correct information.

    Yours
    Mark Russell

    “Well i guess that means my TV licence will go up next year…lol

  11. Clarke this is just ridiculous reporting yet again: news/reporting = humour (sometimes), and the worst thing is that most people believe what they’re told by the beeb and other large organisations to be gospel truth.

    Why would they want to give an industry a bad name, an industry which is populated by many people who are hard working, honest and who put in measures to ensure that best ethics are adhered to: and an industry they obviously use themselves???

    An apology? I would say this requires a bit more than a simple “I’m sorry”.

    Just my thoughts.

    DannyW

  12. I blogged my thoughts about this earlier – here for reference. I’m glad to hear that the video has now been removed from the BBC page, but obviously the damage has been done, and I have you receive a public retraction from Aunty.

  13. Hi Clarke, I’ve also submitted a complaint to the BBC and I sincerely hope you get the apology you deserve.

  14. Clarke, I hate spam with a passion, nearly as much as i hate the bbc, I run ethical trading websites and and am happy to stand firm with fellow webmasters against this sort of crap. Complaint filed, you have our support!

  15. I complained to the BBC too, I think it’s a terrible state of affairs when something so technical is handled by someone who doesn’t even understand what they’re doing.

    They obviously spent about 10 minutes doing their research and told their boss they did a thorough detailed job spending many hours for which they should get paid for..

  16. I too have sent a complaint in to the Badly Broadcast Corp – belatedly, but it has gone none the less.

    Apart from personal slander to you Clarke, I see this as misinformation and not something I deserve to be fed in exchange for my exorbitant license fee.

    sue ’em, sue ’em, sue ’em!

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