Spam: I Will Fight No More Forever

by Jeff Bone


Okay guys, I give up. Since my first online post to USENET in the mid-late 80s, I have received an ever-increasing amount of unsolicited and increasingly commercial (and decreasingly interesting, well-constructed, compelling) e-mail advertisement. It was amusing, then annoying, then infuriating, then... I thought... intolerable.

I have used every ounce of ingenuity and technology at my disposal against this blight. I've used local mail filters, increasingly sophisticated procmail scripts, commercial services, misdirection, etc. etc. etc.

None of them have worked satisfactorily.

I have tried to maintain my anonymity online, to the detriment of my public persona, my personal / public career, and my "reachability" to those persons in my various latent communities who I do not yet know.

I've opted out. (How naive am I? Respond to a spammer? What was I thinking?)

I've lobbied my congressmen, and have done so with a certain sense of guilt: appeal to the gov't to act to restrict a freedom that is, while an economic and personal nuisance to me personally, still a basic constitutional right of all Americans and probably all human beings, depending on one's theory of rights? How big a hypocrite am I?

None of this worked. None of this *should* work --- the solutions I've sought have not been consistent with my basic philosophy of the technology in question, as not receiving e-mail from unknown parties as a policy is a form of censorship. And CERTAINLY any legislative solution is also censorship -- and we all know how the 'Net deals with censorship.

Messaging technologies must ALWAYS make a choice: either open communication from unknowns is allowed by default --- enabling opportunistic communication --- or it is denied, either by fiat / heuristic or by requiring inconvenient point-of-contact user intervention --- or inbound communications are restricted to some explicitly designated group of "already knowns." At Activerse, in our Ding! p2p instant messaging product, we required explicit user approval after initial contact --- but it was not without its drawbacks, namely the user intervention needed to permit communications after an initial contact. The better spam filters --- the personal, "client" side or user-defined ones --- today use exactly this mode of operation, but the domain of e-mail messages are too rich, the notion of personal identity online too week, and the filters themselves too dumb to make this effective.

So I have come to this conclusion: I will fight no more forever. Spammers, send me your lame-ass solicitations, your broken English, your poorly phrased and even more poorly conceived dreams of having me as your customer. My e-mail address is Go for it. Waste your time sending me these things; waste your money buying my name as a statistically-insignificant part of some list you pay good money for. Do this and KNOW that I will never, ever, ever buy your freakin' product. I'm not going to visit your porn site. I'm not going to waste the time --- time you say will be well spent --- reading your message. I will never, ever, ever respond in any way whatsoever to your crap. Get it? You're wanking off by spewing your rhetoric at me.

Now here's the deal: these low-life IQ80 scum-of-the-earth who send us this garbage in fact have *EVERY RIGHT TO DO SO* and *THERE'S NO TRULY FREE TECHNOLOGICAL SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM.* But they thrive, they justify their existance on the miniscule percent-of-a-percent of the population --- also IQ80? --- that gives them any sort of feedback whatsoever. IF WE ALL just IGNORE them, entirely --- if we can reduce that percent-of-a-percent by another order of magnitude or two --- THEY WILL GO AWAY, forever. Eventually.


That's my solution. Everybody just wise up, cool down, lose the outrage, and stop feeding these bottom-feeders even the notoriety and (economically justifiable) feedback they get even now... and they'll die off.


Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.


Better solutions? Can technology solve what are fundamentally social problems?


2002-08-10 08:48:31
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2002-08-10 10:03:27
An Odd Definition of "Every Right"

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that spammers have the right to use your resources to attempt to reach you with their unsolicited commercial speech. I don't accept that.

The scale is much larger, the example is a little weird, and I have nothing commercial to say, but I suspect you wouldn't buy me a plane ticket to fly to your hometown. You probably wouldn't leave your door unlocked. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't leave a can of spray paint out for me to leave you a message you might not be interested in reading.

People with commercial motives to send me unsolicited (and often fradulent) e-mail are using my resources without my permission, and I find that unacceptable. Maybe that's too nebulous a definition to fit a legal sense, but I don't have any trouble knowing most spam when I see it.

2002-08-11 13:27:20
The net is not free
I must agree with Chromatic on this one. The internet is *not* free. It is a place of free speach, yes. It is not the same for someone to send me spam as it is for someone to stand on public property and spout their opinions or pitches as i walk by them. The former is unathorized and unwanted use of a service i *pay* for, the latter is simply an expression of free speach. There is a reason it is against the law to spam a fax machine. Just because they can do it purely digitally and a few orders of magnatude more often does not make it any different. Granted, American is the land of the free, and i am one of its biggest patriots, but there *is* a limit to freedom, and these people (spammers) have crossed that line.
2002-08-12 11:50:58
BBBZZZTTT! Wrong! Try again
Fist, goto and educate yourself on the topic.
2002-08-12 11:52:01
That post should have gone towards the topic author.
2003-09-11 07:05:55
you used "week" instead of "weak" on the last sentence of the 8th paragraph