Re: Junk mail and rotting web (SPAM)

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Wed, 3 Feb 1999 09:45:14 -0800 (PST)

> >does anyone know: when you get a spam with a remove button,
> >should you reply remove or just play dead and not reply? spike
> The current urban legend is that replying to this link will only
> get you more spam...

It's not a legend, as can be verified by a simple test: create a unique email address that's never been on any web page, any usenet posting, or any legitimate email. Send a single message from that address to the "remove" address given by a spammer. You will start getting spam at that address, since you've conveniently verified to them that it is a valid address they can give or sell to other spammers.

Arguments for spammer tolerance--with which I philosophically have some sympathy--would be better recieved if the reality were not that spammers have demonstrated at every opportunity that they are liars, cheats, and thieves. They continually complain that "opt-in" systems (where a user must request mail /before/ it is sent) do not work, despite the fact that many such systems are working quite profitably. Technical solutions do make an impact; things like the MAPS blackhole, tarpits, and user-level filtering software make a dent, but a lot still gets through.

A spammer is like someone who sees a dish of free mints at the counter of a coffee shop, so he daily empties the dish into his pocket until he accumulates enough to sell back to the restaruant at a profit. It's hard to define that as "theft", really, but it's clear that he has violated the intent of the free service. As a free speech absolutist (I don't even believe in copyrights or slander suits) and a dedicated anarchist, I nonetheless don't see any problem with an implied contract approach to legislation. Legally define an open SMTP server as an offer to send limited, relevant, personallydirected mail to the people served by it. Other uses can then be treated as torts. It's really not as hard to make those distinctions as it seems; a jury can handle it easily.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC