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Sunday, May 25, 2003

Spam, spam, spam spam spam.....

There is no doubt that spam is a problem. The problem is many of the proposed solutions seem worse than the problem itself. Any suggestions......help!!!

The libertarian roots of the Internet run deep. It was the place where innovation trumped experience, where the little guy had as big a megaphone as the largest network, where the small business could reach a global market, where the public could regulate far better than any government. No one imagined that the megaphone would become so loud or that it would speak so often of penis enlargement pills and opportunities for unusual financial transactions in Nigeria.

As the quantity of spam rises to drown out other e-mail, the libertarian is being replaced by the draconian. Regulate it, ban it, censor it, tax it, the cries rise up. Do something, anything, to keep it out of my mailbox.Internet companies boast of their spam-fighting tools. There are, in fact, a wide range of proposals for taming spam. Some involve technological innovation or legislation; many involve both. "It is clear we must act,' Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said last week at a hearing on spam before the Commerce Committee, which he heads. "For Congress's part, we should make no mistake. Unless we can effectively enforce the laws we write, those laws will have little meaning or deterrent effect on any would-be purveyor of spam."

Most of the bills in Congress are built around imposing penalties for sending deceptive e-mail, like a message from "jenny" with the subject of "About last night." Some also want to make it easy to spot spam, typically by requiring the label ADV in the subject line of commercial e-mail. But what exactly is spam? Some say it is any e-mail you didn't ask for. But if that standard were applied to postal mail, entire industries like credit cards and catalogs would come to a halt. Those companies want to ensure that any crackdown on spam doesn't prevent them from moving their business into the electronic age. So far, the bills in Congress say that it is enough to let e-mail recipients opt out and to give them an easy way to avoid future e-mail. Some states are considering a tougher standard, banning all e-mail to people who don't opt in, or request it.

Others are taking matters into their own hands. Volunteer spam fighters are creating lists of Internet addresses of spammers to boycott. And some Internet service providers are preparing to dig even deeper moats around people's in-boxes, blocking mail from anyone the recipient doesn't already know. The biggest potential reductions in spam may come from some more radical ideas, like imposing a small fee, like a postage stamp, for sending e-mail. And much of the spam problem could be stopped if the recipient of an e-mail message could verify the identity of the sender. But checking ID's at the door, in effect, is quite a change for a system virtually hardwired for libertarian anonymity.
Source: New York Times

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