RE: Junk mail and rotting web (SPAM)

James D. Wilson (
Tue, 2 Feb 1999 06:25:48 -1000

Hash: SHA1

Do you think it is fair for someone who shuts down entire ISP mailservers effectively causing a denial of service attack to not be held accountable? PacBell, for example, had to spend a half a million dollars to protect their network after their users were unable to get mail for several days because of spammers.

It is estimated that spammers cost every internet user approx. $2-$3 each month. Is it fair for these people to effectively steal this much money from the rest of the net just so they can peddle their wares without paying the full cost of the advertisement? We are talking about millions of dollars every month. (AOL, for example, has over 10 million users, and multiplying that by two gives you $20,000,000 per month passed on to AOL users alone.)

Spamming is network abuse, usually fraud (headers etc), theft of services, and trespassing. If someone abuses networks, causes the blame to be directed to innocent third parties, steals bandwidth as well as disk space, and uses their wires against their will, shouldn't they be held accountable?

"non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem"

William of Ockham (1285-1347/49)

James D. Wilson, <>, writes, regarding spam:
> What to do?
> [...]
> 2. Lobby your state senators/representatives for strong anti-spam
> legislation in your state which includes prison time for
> knowingly/intentionally transferring the cost of advertisement from
> the sender to intermediate networks and the end users. Class C
> would do the trick.

Is this really a solution in keeping with Extropian philosophy? Do you
want to throw people into prison because they sent you some information
which you didn't want to receive?

I see serious problems in making unsolicited commercial email illegal. It sets a number of dangerous precedents. Email is a protocol which we voluntarily engage in. Spammers are using the protocol in a manner in which we allowed but did not intend. Throwing people in jail for this is going to mean that using any information protocol in the future
will be fraught with danger. There will be gray areas in terms of what
is intended and what is not intended, and it ends up making the laws capricious and enforced at the whim of judges and prosecutors.

There is also the problem of providing different rules for commercial and personal email. Presumably we don't want to throw someone in jail because he sends a personal, unsolicited email, to someone else. It is
only "commercial" unsolicited email that we want to criminalize. But we
can't draw a clean line between the personal and commercial aspects of our activities. Especially in the future, I believe we will be able to have more autonomy and independence in how we structure our lives, so that what we do personally and commercially may not be so different.

Every posting I make is an advertisement for me. I have gotten jobs in the past based solely on people having read my postings on various topics and deciding that I am knowledgeable and write well. As we become more of an information economy this will become much more common.
If spam is criminalized, I might be thrown in jail just for responding to a question which was widely posted.

The EU has privacy laws which require companies not to remember certain things about their customers. I'm not sure how they apply to individual businessmen. Do these laws claim to regulate the contents of
people's minds? Is it only in the commercial sphere that people must be forgetful? What will happen when people are able to extend their own memories with technological aids? The philosophy of this approach is completely misguided.

I would prefer to see methods which address the problem directly within
the framework of the protocol, based on technology, rather than threats
of prison. Filtering and blocking systems are becoming available, and if unsolicited commercial email continues to grow as a problem, they should improve in sophistication and capability.

Frankly, I don't think UCE is that bad a problem right now. I get 200-300
pieces of email a day, and only about 5-10% is spam. I delete spam instantly; there is no need to peruse it carefully. Just the format of
the message on the screen is usually enough to give it away, and if not,
the first line of the message does so. It is a very small effort compared
to reading and handling the bulk of my email. (I do have spam filters,
but the benefit from running them is so slight that I don't even bother
any more.)

The fact that filtering software is not a top seller is a strong indication that most people don't care about spam. You have a small group of very vocal complainers who seem to object on philosophical as much as practical grounds. They are offended that advertisers are able
to send mail without paying for it, just like everyone else.

Rather than try to change the world by creating a new class of criminal
behavior and throwing yet more people in jail, we should work on cooperative approaches by which people can solve the problem on their own.


Version: PGP 6.0.2
Comment: Spammers are NetAbusers - Jail Them With The Other Criminals

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