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Massachusetts Anti-Spam Legislation

By oran in Internet
Sun Nov 17, 2002 at 04:26:19 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

The Massachusetts Attorney General is working on a new state Anti-Spam Bill. Some highlights of the bill include requiring unsolicited commercial e-mail to contain "ADV:" at the beginning of the subject line (which would make filtering spam much easier), and violations would be punishable by $500/message.


While this bill seems like a step in the right direction, there are a few problems that would make it hard to enforce. First of all, one of the requirements is that spammers do not mask the origin of the e-mail. Anonymous re-mailers, however, make it difficult to actually catch the offending spammer. While they attempt to take care of that by simply outlawing any software that allows spammers to do that, this could be a cause for concern for anyone with an anonymous re-mailing program (See Section 2.4 of the Bill)

Since this is state legislation, it only covers spam sent from companies or equipment within Massachusetts or spam sent "knowingly" to residents of Massachusetts. While I do not have any statistics on where most commercial e-mail comes from, I highly doubt it would be a problem for a marketing company to change the point of origin of their spam to somewhere outside Massachusetts. Also, it would be difficult to prove that an unsolicited mailer had previous knowledge of someone's residency in Massachusetts. However, if legislation this restrictive of unsolicited commercial e-mail went through on a national level, it could be a lot more effective. If someone could actually get $500 from a spammer, I think the nation would really take notice and demand similar legislation either on a federal or state level.

A full copy of the draft can be viewed here

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Poll
What do you think of the bill?
o Too unrealistic to enforce. 43%
o This will cut down on the spam I get. 4%
o It will be more effective if it spreads to other states 20%
o It's a good start. 27%
o Too restrictive on marketers. 4%

Votes: 72
Results | Other Polls

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Massachusetts Anti-Spam Legislation | 42 comments (36 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
It's the classic bait and trick game. (5.00 / 2) (#7)
by dvchaos on Fri Nov 15, 2002 at 08:20:02 PM EST

as long as their are users dumb enough to click anything and everything they see on screen, spam will always exist, no matter what 'legislation' is put into action. It's the classic bait and trick game. as long as their is bait, their will nearly always be someone willing to trick. Even though, I gave that article a +1FP because it's always good to see something is being done or at least attempted to solve the inane problem of spam.

--
RAR.to - anonymous proxy server!
So? (none / 0) (#24)
by chrisbolt on Sun Nov 17, 2002 at 06:50:03 PM EST

I don't care if spam exists, as long as I can make it so if I don't want to see it, I don't have to. Right now we have to come up with elaborate schemes that analyze the probabilities of words in spam versus non-spam, heuristic tests, require people to confirm that they're not a spammer, redesign the protocol or just hit delete for every spam we see. If these could be replaced with a single filter based on the subject line, it would improve things greatly for people who don't want spam, and that's what this legislation is meant to do.

---
<panner> When making backups, take a lesson from rusty: it doesn't matter if you make them, only that you _think_ you made them.
[ Parent ]
Legislation (5.00 / 2) (#8)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Fri Nov 15, 2002 at 08:20:45 PM EST

Legislation is really not the answer to spam. They can't even outlaw drugs, prostitution, or underage drinking effectively.

I also happen to believe that NO software should be "outlawed."

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."

Flawed comparisons (3.00 / 1) (#9)
by Lord of the Wasteland on Fri Nov 15, 2002 at 08:56:01 PM EST

Drugs, prostitution, and underage drinking all flourish because of high demand, not profitability. Drug buyers and johns far outnumber drug dealers and prostitutes. The spammed vastly outnumber the spammers. The spammers aren't driven by need, just the desire to make a buck. This makes it much more amenable to legislation.

[ Parent ]
Harassment (none / 0) (#20)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Sun Nov 17, 2002 at 12:08:23 PM EST

I see spam as harassment. One party is an unwilling victim, which is the difference between spam and vice. It's impossible to outlaw things that occur between consenting people. But recipients of spam would be more than happy to sue spammers, as has been shown in other states with anti-spam legislation.

Also, I agree that no software should be outlawed. I am against this bill for that reason.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]

This is nonsense (5.00 / 2) (#10)
by greenrd on Fri Nov 15, 2002 at 10:15:00 PM EST

As you rightly point out, the word "knowingly" creates a loophole big enough to drive several trucks through.

It follows certain other laws in providing a defence that you didn't know you were doing something that was wrong (not that you didn't know the law existed, which is never a defence). But in the case of spam this kind of defence is totally inapplicable. If you have a prior business relationship with the plaintiff then you should definitely know what state they are in, so this doesn't even apply. But if you don't have a prior business relationship, then it's unsolicited, it's commercial, and it's email - which equals spam by any reasonable measure.

Everyone who knows anything about how the vast majority of spammers operate, knows that spammers neither know nor care where joesmith345675@hotmail.com lives. But if they don't know, this law gives them a wholly unjustified loophole.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes

the way it works now... (4.00 / 1) (#12)
by pb on Sat Nov 16, 2002 at 01:12:55 AM EST

In states that do have legislation like this (like Washington State), you reply to the spammer and tell them to stop spamming you.  Then, if they continue to spam you, you can sue them for money (for each spam that was sent to you after they were notified of the law).

I've read some good stories about how some people have collected money from the offending parties.  Basically, no, it isn't always easy to track down the spammers, but it might be worth your time.  Perhaps if the spammers have more to lose than to gain by spamming, they will stop.  If not, at least we'll get paid for having to get rid of their crap every day...
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

Excellent (none / 0) (#11)
by dmr on Sat Nov 16, 2002 at 01:12:02 AM EST

I didn't read the original which apparently included the full text of the bill in the article, but I disagree with one poster who grumbled about it's length. I have never seen a piece of legislature so succinct.

I agree with the concern about outlawing email anonymizing software, but my concern would be alleviated by the addition of the clause "for the purpose of disguising the origin of UCE". I think that is implicit, as that section of the bill would only come into play for UCE anyway.

I also agree that this is not likely to have a great effect at the state level, but could serve as a spur to other states to rev up their attempts.

Sigh... More encouragement for spammers (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by Mysidia on Sat Nov 16, 2002 at 01:30:35 AM EST

The Massachusetts Attorney General is working on a new state Anti-Spam Bill. Some highlights of the bill include requiring unsolicited commercial e-mail to contain "ADV:" at the beginning of the subject line (which would make filtering spam much easier), and violations would be punishable by $500/message.

Making the spammers do certain things to send their unsolicited mail doesn't work... it just encourages them (and they can find ways around whatever they're supposed to do)

Requirement to put AD in the subject line? No problem... just put Subject: <their normal subject> in the mail header, and add another Subject :... hidden in the message somewhere

I long ago lost count of the number of spam mails I got with things like this in their messages, touting their "legitimacy" and "non-spamness":

This message is in full compliance with U.S. Federal requirements for commercial email under bill S.1618 Title lll, Section 301, Paragraph (a)(2)(C) passed by the 105th U.S. Congress and cannot be considered SPAM since it includes a remove mechanism.

By making laws that only regulate unsolicited bulk mail and not prohibit it, spammers are only encouraged to continue their nefarious, annoying practices of bandwidth/resources thievery and outright annoyance of remote internet users that they have no connection with or right to harrass with advertisments. I am convinced that this Massachusetts law is not a good thing. An outright ban on bulk mailings to users who did not specifically ask the sender in a verified opt-in fashion to receive such mailings is necessary.



-Mysidia the insane @k5+SN
The problem with such a ban is (none / 0) (#15)
by leviramsey on Sat Nov 16, 2002 at 03:23:52 AM EST

where does the line get drawn? There are certain things that are undeniably spam, but most of what would be called by at least one person spam isn't one of those undeniable things.

For instance, would a mail forwarded to you by a friend qualify (for example: you are a believer in animal rights and a friend sends you an email trying to get you to donate to PETA) as spam? If someone makes a post to a mailinglist (say something devoted to fans of the NFL Europe league) and their .sig includes a commercial message (say "buy rare Scottish Claymores collectibles from...") does that meet the definition? Somewhat related (yes, I know it's not SMTP) would be the question of posting auction announcements to a Usenet newsgroup under which purview the objects to be auctioned are found (example: posting an auction of a collection of James Bond film posters to alt.fan.james-bond). The same question can be asked wrt web fora (such as Kuro5hin). If in response to a post asking, "I'm looking for a log analyzer with features..." and somebody responds "my company sells $PRODUCT which has those features" to a webmaster mailinglist, would that be spam? Would the ubiquitous "Do you Yahoo!?/Get MSN 8/etc. .sigs from the various free email providers qualify messages for spam status? Would one of those very common online greeting cards count? These are only a sampling of edge cases, and I would be very surprised if anyone has never encountered one of these and slightly less surprised if anyone has only encountered one of those cases.

Spam, like obscenity, is one of those things which people "know it when they see it" but can't really generate a definition which simultaneously accounts for most/all of the cases while not having a shitload of false positives.



[ Parent ]
It's not really a problem. (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by Mysidia on Sat Nov 16, 2002 at 02:36:41 PM EST

The kind of spam that should be made illegal is called Unsolicited Bulk E-mail: this is the practice of simply collecting (or generating) and trying to send an email to any address that you think might work.

A key idea is that you are circulating a message (advertisement, chain letter, etc) to any address you can find, and you have no reason or basis to contact those addresses other than simply trying to spread the message to another internet user.

The spam that is a major problem is not defined as "junk" or someone sending you something that you don't like (or find useless), it's the unsolicited bulk junk that is a plague to the internet.



-Mysidia the insane @k5+SN
[ Parent ]
burden of proof, et al. (none / 0) (#33)
by aphrael on Mon Nov 18, 2002 at 05:29:42 PM EST

How do you prove that the email was sent to any address which might work?

Proving that something is 'spam', by just about any definition you can think of which is loose enough to allow harmless things like mailing a bunch of your friends and attaching a commercial .sig required because you're sending mail from work, is an extremely difficult task, and one that few county district attorney's are going to be willing to devote the resources to.

[ Parent ]

Well (none / 0) (#40)
by Mysidia on Wed Nov 20, 2002 at 06:50:15 PM EST

1. Mail between friends is not unsolicited, because they have directly exchanged e-mail addresses.

2. When a user sends e-mail 'to' an address, the whole point of putting the address on the TO: line is that they believe it is an address that works. Any address involving a host that resolves or any domain that has a valid MX record might be a valid e-mail address : any system running a mail server can receive e-mail at any address @<mailserver> name if configured to allow it, and on most systems, mail addressed to an invalid user generates an error (bounce) message and forwards a copy to the envelope originator and the mail server's administrator (postmaster).



-Mysidia the insane @k5
[ Parent ]
The most effective way to beat spam.. (5.00 / 4) (#14)
by Arkayne on Sat Nov 16, 2002 at 03:21:57 AM EST

..is to simply not click on the links.

I place more blame on those who give money to the companies to continue their spamming, then I do the companies themselves.

They simply wouldn't exist unless there was profit in it, and the amount of spam out there is directly related to how many people are purchasing their services/products.

That's not quite true... (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by ShadowNode on Sun Nov 17, 2002 at 02:00:48 PM EST

As long as people think there might be profit in spam, it will continue, regardless as to whether there actually is or not.

[ Parent ]
That's not completely true either. (none / 0) (#29)
by Arkayne on Mon Nov 18, 2002 at 03:10:44 AM EST

Maybe for a very short initial period, but how long would you continue running an enterprise which loses money? Corperations have been backing away from the internet in a near full trot over the past few years, now is the perfect time to demonstrate that Spam has no place here.

I'm old enough to remember the Internet when the concept made the adverage person go "Huh?", advertising via carpet-bombing is a "recent" thing, (in relative light-speed internet terms) it doesn't have to be this way.

[ Parent ]

there's always another moron... (4.00 / 1) (#30)
by ShadowNode on Mon Nov 18, 2002 at 03:32:49 AM EST

From what I understand most of the money made from spamming is not from actually marketing things that way, but from selling mailing lists. Individuals may give up after a while, but there's always another moron to replace them.

[ Parent ]
market (none / 0) (#32)
by spottedkangaroo on Mon Nov 18, 2002 at 07:59:51 AM EST

I think you're ignoring the fact that spammers expect in the neighborhood of about 0.001% penetration. So, even if nearly everyone didn't click on the links, they'd still do ok with there spam when some first-time computer users clicked on one link one time.

[ Parent ]
yeh, righto...just like the privacy act... (none / 0) (#17)
by sye on Sat Nov 16, 2002 at 06:03:16 PM EST

you'll get protecting your privacy letters coming out of you ass...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
commentary - For a better sye@K5
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
ripple me ~~> ~allthingsgo: gateway to Garden of Perfect Brightess in CNY/BTC/LTC/DRK
rubbing u ~~> ~procrasti: getaway to HE'LL
Hey! at least he was in a stable relationship. - procrasti
enter K5 via Blastar.in

Which is more annoying... (none / 0) (#18)
by evilpenguin on Sun Nov 17, 2002 at 06:34:35 AM EST

Spam, or pop-up/under ads?

Personally, I find pop-ups to be my number one cause of hatred towards advertizers.  I don't mind (as much) hitting the 'delete' key and getting rid of one spam message, but I _do_ mind having to click 'X' when some uninvited window jumps up, offering an X-10 camera.  And let's not even consider those on "adult" websites that spawn three new popups when you close the first.  Ugh.

Further, consider the bandwidth costs of pop-ups in comaprison to spam.  A plaintext email is just a few KB.  A popup is likely to contain > 100 KB.  I don't know the numbers on approximately how many of these windows are viewed (or how many spam emails are sent), but I would imagine that popups waste more bandwidth than email.  At least, this has been my experience.

So I propose to ban all popup ads.  It could be phrased in a way as to prevent loopholes (i.e., "The creation of a new browser window without the explicit request of the viewer."), as there are still some legitimate uses for the popup.  I use Opera, which has popup blocking capability (and I keep it enabled), but it becomes a double-edged sword, as you can then no longer use a website that opens pictures in new windows when you click on a thumbnail.  Ugh.

Some sites complain, when they start running popups, that it is the only way to survive these days -- that people just aren't paying for the regular banner ad anymore.  It is not my intent to bankrupt these individuals, which is why such a bill would have to work on a national level (it would hurt more than help on a per-state basis).  Granted, such a bill wouldn't have a chance of passing the current administration ("I say, that's Unamerican! yee-haw!"), but there's always 2004.
--
# nohup cat /dev/dsp > /dev/hda & killall -9 getty

Are you serious? (none / 0) (#19)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Sun Nov 17, 2002 at 11:59:04 AM EST

The big difference, the reason we're all upset about spam and not pop-ups, is choice. You have every right not to visit sites with popup ads. That right doesn't exist to choose not to receive spam - once your e-mail address is out in the wild, there's just no way to rescue it.

The argument about excessive bandwidth use doesn't make sense. If it's the government's job to conserve bandwidth, they might as well make it illegal to post uncompressed images.. or play sounds or flash animations on your page. If you're concerned about the bandwidth, you should stop visiting sites with popups or run blocking software. If your ISP is worried it's up to them, not the government, to find a solution.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]

Problem solved (5.00 / 1) (#21)
by ShadowNode on Sun Nov 17, 2002 at 01:53:56 PM EST

Use Mozilla: Edit -> Preferences -> Advanced -> Scripts & Plugins; uncheck "Open unrequested windows".

There you go. You can even pretend it's a nanny state protecting you if you really want to.



[ Parent ]
Opera 7 (none / 0) (#31)
by Cameleon on Mon Nov 18, 2002 at 05:54:54 AM EST

This is one of the few features I've always missed in Opera and liked in Mozilla. It lets you block popups, but still use requested popups. But I just found out Opera 7 (now in beta for Windows) offers this functionality as well. Joy!

[ Parent ]
The DMA (none / 0) (#23)
by oran on Sun Nov 17, 2002 at 04:33:01 PM EST

The main lobbyists against legislation - the DMA - are actually FOR this bill.

I just found that out and thought it was an interesting thing to point out - this bill will most likely go through (although hopefully it will see some revision).

Ridiculous (none / 0) (#25)
by DJBongHit on Sun Nov 17, 2002 at 09:38:06 PM EST

I don't understand you people. Is spam really THAT BAD that you want the government to stick their grubby fingers in and legislate which patterns of bits can and cannot be sent across the network? Spam is obnoxious, sure, but it really is not within the realm of what the government should be allowed to outlow. I see it as a free speech issue - why should the government be allowed to dictate what sorts of messages can be transmitted across the internet? (clearly I'm only talking about legitimate advertisements - scams and other sorts of things which are illegal in offline situations should be illegal online, and for the same reasons). Spam falls into the same category as junk mail (yeah, yeah, I know all the arguments about junk mail costing the sender and spam costing the receiver - that's beside the point. You can always filter spam server-side and save yourself those 14 cents in bandwidth charges).

And in the end, it's a problem that's easily solved by technological solutions anyway. I haven't looked at a piece of spam in months, even though my addresses are on numerous mailing lists and I get 30 or 40 pieces of it a day.

Government intervention rarely fixes anything, and usually ends up making the problem worse. Keep your laws off my internet.

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

Not beside the point, it IS the point. (none / 0) (#26)
by Kwil on Sun Nov 17, 2002 at 10:03:08 PM EST

Spam falls into the same category as junk mail (yeah, yeah, I know all the arguments about junk mail costing the sender and spam costing the receiver - that's beside the point. You can always filter spam server-side and save yourself those 14 cents in bandwidth charges).

Seeing as how the only way to ensure that a filter doesn't have any false positives is to make it so loose as to be useless, your server-side spam filter is not really that useful.

Besides which, spam not only costs the receiver, but every receiver along the route, as well as increasing lag for everyone else that has to go through those routes. True, the effect of any individual spam is not noticable, but you add up all the spam that travels through the network every day, and it actually does have measurable effects.

Looking at spam isn't really the issue. I don't see advertisements on my television either and I don't have any technological filtering mechanisms, I just tune'em out and go to the can or some such.  I don't complain about television adverts though because I know that the people placing them are paying for them.

Make spammers pay for their bandwidth costs, and I'd agree with you 100%. Unfortunately, we have no way of doing that yet, so I'm willing to consider government intervention as a "next best" step. Besides which, I hardly see the imposition of ADV on commercial e-mail as that restricting on free speech.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze


[ Parent ]
Making a mountain out of a molehill (none / 0) (#27)
by DJBongHit on Sun Nov 17, 2002 at 11:35:43 PM EST

Seeing as how the only way to ensure that a filter doesn't have any false positives is to make it so loose as to be useless, your server-side spam filter is not really that useful.
I beg to differ - I've been using Apple Mail's spam filter since Jaguar was released, and I have not had *one single false positive* in the entire time. Not only that, I've had only 2 or 3 missed spams that have slipped through, out of 30 or 40 spams I get each day.

Of course, I still don't fully trust it, and every week or two I'll scroll through the folder of spam it's collected and double-check before I actually delete it all. But that's an investment of maybe 30 seconds a week.

Besides which, spam not only costs the receiver, but every receiver along the route, as well as increasing lag for everyone else that has to go through those routes. True, the effect of any individual spam is not noticable, but you add up all the spam that travels through the network every day, and it actually does have measurable effects.
Spam adds such an insignificant amount of lag that it doesn't even matter - it's so far outweighed by porn and p2p traffic that it's not even worth worrying about. It's just another drop in the raging river of network traffic. Ok, so maybe it's a gallon instead of a drop - it still doesn't matter.

I don't complain about television adverts though because I know that the people placing them are paying for them.
The people who send spam ARE paying for them! It's not as much as people pay to run a TV commercial, but that's because sending bits out into a network is an inherently cheap operation... just like receiving bits from the network. They're still paying money to send the spam, and I can assure you that the amount they spend is much more than any extra bandwidth charges you incur by downloading an extra few K of email per day.

Besides which, I hardly see the imposition of ADV on commercial e-mail as that restricting on free speech.
The issue is not whether or not it is "that restricting on free speech." The entire point behind the first amendment is that ANY restrictions on free speech is not acceptable. And while I agree that it would be nice if spammers would all put ADV: in the subject line, the content of private communication, in any medium, is not an appropriate place for government rules and regulations.

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
Really? (none / 0) (#28)
by CarryTheZero on Mon Nov 18, 2002 at 01:33:07 AM EST

I beg to differ - I've been using Apple Mail's spam filter since Jaguar was released, and I have not had one single false positive in the entire time. Not only that, I've had only 2 or 3 missed spams that have slipped through, out of 30 or 40 spams I get each day.

That hasn't been my experience: I've been using Mail.app under Jaguar, and while the filter catches most spam, it also has a high false positive rate (maybe 10% of legit e-mails are erroneously flagged as spam).
To address your main point, though, spam should be illegal for the same reason junk faxes are: the costs of spam are borne by the recipient or by third parties, not by the sender (as opposed to paper junk mail). In the long term, spammers make running a mail server much more expensive, because you have to accept, process, and store a large volume of e-mail that your users never asked for. At an individual level, it's a drop in the bucket, but once you have, say, 10,000 users the costs add up. Note that this is a problem that client-side filters obviously cannot solve.

--
You said I'd wake up dead drunk / alone in the park / I called you a liar / but how right you were
iTunes users: want to download album artwork automatically? Now you can.
[ Parent ]

Everyone Is Different (none / 0) (#35)
by The Turd Report on Tue Nov 19, 2002 at 07:04:57 PM EST

That hasn't been my experience: I've been using Mail.app under Jaguar, and while the filter catches most spam, it also has a high false positive rate (maybe 10% of legit e-mails are erroneously flagged as spam).

A lot of this comes down to how much email you get and from how wide a variety of people send that mail. I have some filters on an account that cause no false positives and no spam gets thru, but only 4-5 people email me at that address. On a different account, I have gotten false positives and I have had spam come thru, but I get tons of legit mail at that address.

[ Parent ]

Proves the Point (none / 0) (#37)
by Kwil on Tue Nov 19, 2002 at 08:39:06 PM EST

That everyone is different goes a long way toward proving that server side filters simply can't work. Which more or less eliminates the possibility of a technical solution for the problem of spam consumed bandwidth and server time.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze


[ Parent ]
Well, there is one possibility (none / 0) (#38)
by The Turd Report on Wed Nov 20, 2002 at 11:05:34 AM EST

Some ISPs set up their mail servers so that the end user can decide what to filter or will only tag spam with what DNSBL listed it. This does not help with the bandwidth to the server issue, but it does give people the choice as to how their email is used.

I guess ISPs could offer a couple of different email packages and set-up different servers for each. One server may be for all the users who want very strict spam filtering and may not mind some legit mail getting filtered. A second may allow end users the choice of filters and black-lists to use. The third would just be wide open or only tagged.

[ Parent ]

Try again (none / 0) (#41)
by Gromit on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 01:35:29 PM EST

The entire point behind the first amendment is that ANY restrictions on free speech is not acceptable.
An argument commonly made by people who don't know what they're talking about. We accept reasonable limits on free speech all the time (the old "Fire!" in a theater thing is only the most common example). But that's not even the point; the point is that just as you can't paint an advertisement on the side of my house, because that's my resource that I pay for, you can't appropriate my bandwidth -- or my fax paper.

As to the "molehill" thing, I run a website and have my email address there, and consequently my signal-to-noise ratio for incoming email has gotten down to about 50-to-1, no joke. That is not a molehill. Most of that spam is larger than a normal real message, so I'm paying for rather more than 50 times as much bandwidth, overhead costs for mail servers, etc., because you can be sure my ISP passes these expenses along to us customers.



--
"The noble art of losing face will one day save the human race." - Hans Blix

[ Parent ]
Some Things To Consider (none / 0) (#34)
by The Turd Report on Mon Nov 18, 2002 at 06:40:04 PM EST

I see it as a free speech issue - why should the government be allowed to dictate what sorts of messages can be transmitted across the internet?
I see it as a consent issue. Spammers do not have the right to force me to listen to their ads. And, just because a spammer has the right to free speach, that does not mean I have to give them a forum to speak in.

You can always filter spam server-side and save yourself those 14 cents in bandwidth charges
But, by then the bandwidth has already been used and the spammer has already been paid.

[ Parent ]

Anti-spam legislation is not a free speech issue (none / 0) (#39)
by gbd on Wed Nov 20, 2002 at 04:45:10 PM EST

Spam apologists are quick to wrap themselves in the American flag and call themselves First Amendment / free speech activists, but even a cursory examination of the current state of affairs will demonstrate that this is most assuredly not the case. What is being debated here is a delivery mechanism, not the content of the speech itself. If the government proposed a law that (for example) banned all "racist" e-mail, faxes, etc. or if they wanted to make it illegal to make negative comments about the President, then that would be a clear example of a violation of the First Amendment.

If you had a product that you were selling, would you consider it a violation of your First Amendment rights if you were to be arrested for spray-painting an advertisement on somebody's fence? After all, you've got a message that you're trying to get out, and what right does the Big Bad Government have to try to suppress your rights to free speech? Now, you might say that this is a ridiculous example, and that the government is not charging you because of the content of your speech, but because of the way that you chose to present it. And that's the whole point. We already have government regulations for telemarketers. We have laws against sending people junk faxes (though this law has been recently and unfortunately revisited in the courts.)

There are several precedents of the government enacting legislation against delivery mechanisms that have been shown to be intrustive or destructive. And this is the main point:

Spam is destructive. It eats large amounts of bandwidth. It consumes large amounts of disk space on ISP mail servers. (I recently learned that I had missed several important mail messages while on a week-long vacation because spammers had filled my POP3 inbox past its quota and my ISP started to bounce messages back to the sender.) Spam penalizes people who pay for their Internet access by the byte. People who send spam often do it through illegal means (i.e., exploiting open relays or otherwise poorly-configured servers.) If you enjoy your spam, that's great, but the rest of us are getting sick and tired of paying for it.

--
Gunter glieben glauchen globen.
[ Parent ]

Content filtering works... (none / 0) (#36)
by magus123x on Tue Nov 19, 2002 at 08:21:40 PM EST

What we've resorted to, with great success, is a combination of domain and content filtering.

So yes, if we get spam from "wesendgoatporn.com" guess what, "wesendgoatporn.com" is added to our blacklist.

But also, we block ALL messages containing "free" AND "goat" AND "porn" as well. So even if they change their domain name, or if someone else tries to send us free goat porn, it's blocked automagically.

This is what we've done to stop a lot of the spam, and I mean a lot. 400/day company wide (for a company of 25 people) dwindled to about 20/day now, which is a 95% reduction. And out of the thousands of emails filtered out, only a small handful (less than 10) were legitimate emails. And when a legit email is caught, we simply tune the filters, and those incidents are now fewer and rarer.

By the end of the year, the filters should be solid enough that we should see a 99% spam reduction, and an error rate of less than 0.001%. A lot of products are out there that do content filtering too, and many are inexpensive. Granted it isn't ideal for consumers, but for businesses it's a cheap solution.

Spamassassin (none / 0) (#42)
by vectro on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 02:10:31 PM EST

... is a similar, but more sophisticated approach. Essentially there are about 1000 tests that are applied to the message, each with a point score - add up the score of a message to find its spam rating. At the sensitivity I have it set to it picks up about 95% of my spam, and I've never had it flag a message as spam which wasn't.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Massachusetts Anti-Spam Legislation | 42 comments (36 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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