Internet University: Cell Phone Spam

It may be sizable overseas, but the U.S. wireless advertising industry is still microscopic, and any hopes of growth could be in danger of suffocation by cell phone spam. Already existing SMSs (short messaging systems) allow short text messages of up to 140 characters to be transmitted to cellular devices, and unfortunately, some companies are beginning to take advantage of the technology. Acacia National Mortgage is one company that sends out unsolicited text ads to large blocks of cell phone numbers. Many consider these ads cell phone spam, but Acacia President Jerry Youhanaie stands behind his methods, saying that government regulations do not specifically cover cell phones. He was recently quoted saying, "This is the wave of the future, and if you don't like it, you need to move to a different universe."

Not many would dispute that these guys are ruining the wireless medium for the rest of us. The good news is that cell phone companies like Verizon are taking these spammers to court and winning. In Colorado, Verizon recently won a lawsuit forcing Acacia to cease its spamming practices to Colorado residents.

The bad news is that today there is no solution out there for cell phone spam. On the email side, the Internet touts a laundry list of spam-fighting companies like San Francisco-based Banter, which sells a program that learns to prioritize emails based on user actions. The catch is that this program is only available as a part of a $75,000 application suite, although a stand-alone product is in the works. There are no such prospects on the wireless side. It looks like marketers can only hope that technology companies develop effective spam-filtering systems that have applications in the cellular universe, otherwise it’ll result in the death of a potential advertising medium before it has a chance to be born.

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