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I hear many people say "oh well, junk email is a fact of life on the Internet...". This is not so! We can stop the proliferation of junk email NOW! Most system administrators hate spam. Tracking and finding spammers and reporting them to system administrators and to their service providers will often put a stop to their practices in very short order. Unless they are brought to light, they certainly will continue to fish the waters of the Internet with their little sticks of dynamite in the hopes that something of small value will come to the surface!

Let me remind everyone of a couple of things we should keep in mind when talking about spam.

  1. In case you haven't looked closely at your spam mail lately, most spammers go to great lengths to hide their identities to keep from being flamed. More often than not, this includes the use of insecure mail gateways elsewhere on the Internet and the use of domain names, both without the knowledge or consent of the owners of these resources. The operation of the Internet rests on a collection of agreements on how things will work. These include not only technical documents, but principles of conduct which make things run smoothly. People who take it upon themselves to violate these agreements are a danger to the Internet and can potentially do to email service what they've already pretty well managed to do to the Usenet news service. Usenet will probably die from spam-abuse in the not-too-distant future.

  2. Spam email is the product of some seriously flawed thinking. The model for spam advertising is the same as that for snail mail bulk-rate advertising - buy a big list (the bigger the better) and send the same thing to everyone on it. Email addresses are a lot easier to come by than snail-mail addresses, and the addressee pays a portion of the "postage". This model is totally inappropriate for the Internet, which is why most of the spam most of us get is for things we wouldn't buy in a million years. The Internet offers the opportunity for marketers to really develop a relationship with their market in a way that snail-mail doesn't. Interactive web sites are a good start. Cooperative marketing relationships between companies that sell complementary products are another idea that hasn't really taken off. There are some really creative possibilities available compared to which spam advertising is very much akin to fishing with dynamite - which is, incidentally, illegal in most places.

I have been told by spammers (and by others who ought to know better) that there's nothing that can be done about spam email because it's protected as "free speech" by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Consider this, please. It's customary, and in fact pretty much required by law that people who advertise on any medium pay for the resources they use which are not their own. It's understood that if I watch commercial TV or use a system such as Juno mail which is supported by advertising, I have to put up with ads because it's part of the contract. Spam mail delivered to my computer is not part of my contract with my ISP or with anyone else, and the use of my personal computing resources by spammers to deliver their messages to me is not paid for by them, or by anyone except me. Under this same principle, sending unsolicited advertising by FAX is already illegal.

By US Code Title 47, Sec.227(a)(2)(B), a computer/modem/printer meets the definition of a telephone fax machine. By Sec.227(b)(1)(C), it is unlawful to send any unsolicited advertisement to such equipment. By Sec.227(b)(3)(C), a violation of the aforementioned Section is punishable by action to recover actual monetary loss, or $500, whichever is greater, for each violation.

I work very hard at keeping spam out of my email box, and am generally successful. In the process I've made friends with many system administrators from systems large and small all over the world. These are hard working folks who, while trying to take care of their customers, have had to stop their regular work to deal with hundreds of flame posts because some spammer spoofed their domain name and they caught the flames for it. They're mad as hops, and often I can help them track down the sources of this stuff.

The Internet was built on and survives because of cooperation, unlike governments and other political entities which rely on the force of law for survival. As such it's an experiment in human relations on a grand scale. It's up to us, as users of the Internet, to do what we can, individually and collectively, to require accountability from those who would take advantage of this spirit of cooperation for their own selfish ends. Raising the signal to noise ratio in Internet email can only be done by everyone working together to make it so. Should we all sit back and let the spammers have their way? I think not! I for one am going to keep working to make online life so difficult for spammers and companies that hire spammers that they'll realize that spamming isn't cost effective and hopefully find more focused ways to market their wares. I hope that you agree with me, and if so, I hope you find the resources on this website to be helpful.

Suggestions and criticisms on this site are invited and welcome, especially from system administrators with experience in dealing with spam email. Please email <>.