SPAM Email

SPAM Email

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SPICEY PORK AND e-MAIL
Anyone who "SPAMS" as a marketing technique should be forced to sit at a computer and experience the utter agony that is receiving SPAM email. In the past week I have received over 105 emails to my AOL account. Out of the 105 emails, only one was a "real" email from an actual person, the rest: SPAM! This problem must be happening to others, so why hasn't something been done to outlaw this annoying junk email? Who is the evil mastermind behind this so-called "SPAM"? Who is it, so I can find them and make sure they never touch a computer again! "Spamming" should be a crime.
What is SPAM? "SPAM", in its original definition, means "spiced pork and meat", a disgusting canned substance that originated in the 1930's. Today, SPAM is more commonly thought of as the annoying junk email we get everyday asking us to "re-finance your home" or "visit my webcam". Michael D. Sofka, of the Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute, states many definitions for SPAM, the most pertinent and obvious being simply: "Mass, Unsolicited Commercial Email" (1). According to Spam expert Brad Templeton, mass unsolicited email was first coined as "Spam" in April of 1994. Two lawyers named Canter and Siegel hired a programmer to write a program script that would post the lawyers' advertisement to thousands of newsgroups on "USENET", which is the world's largest online conferencing center, (or at least was at the time). Templeton says that this act was termed "Spam" from an old Monty Python skit, in which "a restaurant serves all of its food with lots of Spam, and the waitress repeats the word several times in describing how much spam is in the items. When she does this, a group of Vikings in the corner start a song: "Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, lovely Spam! Wonderful Spam!" Until told to shut up." (2). Because of how repetitive and annoying the word "Spam" became in the skit, a few people started calling these annoying and repetitive emails "SPAM". The name stuck, and to this day junk email is still called Spam. These annoying emails were originally intended as a marketing ploy, simply to get a company's message out to as many people as possible. Now they are so annoying, I can honestly say that Spam is the absolute worst way to get your message across; these junk emails are never read, only deleted.

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Aside from being annoying, Spam is costing people big bucks. Saul Hansell of the New York Times explains how in the year 2000, Indiana University spent approximately 1.2 million dollars on a new network of nine computers, with their sole purpose being to process email for over 115,000 students and faculty members across the state. This network was believed to be sufficient until 2004, but with the exponential increase in Spam email, the school had to upgrade their system in 2001, at a cost of 300,000 dollars. The cost to universities is chump change compared to what it is estimated to be costing the United States. Ferris Research estimates that, annually, Spam costs the United States upwards of ten billion dollars. While Nucleus Research believes that the overall cost to the US is around 87 billion dollars per year (3). Janine Warner of the Miami Herald reports that the annual cost to US businesses clocks in at around 8.9 billion (4). Businesses aren't the only ones paying for Spam; individual consumers pay a price, too. The cost to the average consumer comes in the form of downloading time and web space that gets occupied on the person's email account. Right now, almost all ISPs (Internet service providers) offer some sort of Spam blocking email filter. Steven J. Vaughan of Enterprise IT Planet.com offers some helpful information in terms of what can be done to stop "spammers", such as "blacklists, whitelists, and rules-based Bayesian" (5). For the computer programmers, hackers and anyone who knows what a black or white list is, then Vaughan's information might actually mean something to you. But the truth is that the average person does not have the knowledge or the resources to stop spam without some kind of "middleman" program, that's where "Spamcop" comes into play. Spamcop.net is a website that offers a Spam reporting and filtering service to people for 30 dollars per year, if you don't feel like paying anything then you can just use their reporting service free of charge (6). You simply report any piece of unsolicited commercial email you receive to Spamcop.net, and "Spamcop" tries to get the "spammer's" account shut down. Unfortunately the spammers tend to open more accounts as fast as their old ones are shut down. The only way to can spam for good is to make it punishable by fine or cold hard jail time, possibly capital punishment, although, that will be up to the judge.
According to Spamlaws.com "In September 2003, legislation was approved in California that made it the second state (after Delaware) to adopt an opt-in for e-mail advertising. Under this legislation, it is illegal to send unsolicited commercial e-mail from California or to a California e-mail address. The law applies to senders as well as to advertisers on whose behalf messages are sent."(7). Other states have laws regulating Spam, but none are as "bullet-proof" as California's or Delaware's. For instance, Iowa's legislation reads something like this: " …Iowa law prohibits the sending of unsolicited bulk e-mail that uses a third party's name for the return address without permission, or contains false or missing routing information. Unsolicited bulk commercial e-mail messages must include opt-out instructions and contact information, and opt-out requests must be honored. The law applies to e-mail that is sent to or through a computer network located in Iowa."(7). These laws leave too many loopholes and technicalities that "spammers" will get around. Weak regulations will neither stop nor slow down the spread of Spam. It must be illegal, period.
Spamming should be illegal everywhere, but is it? Only is spamming illegal altogether, no strings attached, in 2 states. If the goal is to keep our inboxes Spam-free, then the solution is not to filter our email, but to stop the Spam from being sent in the first place. Consequently, it is necessary for each state to restrict all Spam. Spammers will always find ways to get around filtering programs, and filtering programs will never be 100% successful with a 0% false detection rate. The question that needs to be asked is: how much more money can businesses afford to waste each year? How much more money can the US afford to waste each year? Spamming needs to stop, and for that to happen it must be against the law, everywhere.

Sources
(1) http://www.rpi.edu/~sofkam/papers/spam-talk.pdf
(2) http://www.templetons.com/brad/spamterm.html
(3) http://www.lexisone.com/balancing/articles/n080003d.html
(4) http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/business/5343343.htm
(5) http://www.enterpriseitplanet.com/security/features/article.php/3078751
(6) www.spamcop.net
(7) http://www.spamlaws.com/
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