A Spam Primer

June 30, 2003
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Spam senders, or bulk e-mailers, trawl for addresses. They use programs that scan Usenet groups to compile mailing lists. They also scan online services for membership directories and discussion forums. They may also sign on for trial memberships to get these addresses, and, of course, they scan mailing lists.

Here are a few arguments for and against spam.

Some Pros:

  • Bulk e-mailers believe they provide a service by distributing information that helps recipients make informed choices.

  • Bulk e-mail is seen by spammers as free enterprise protected by free speech.

  • Bulk e-mailers view addresses as public information — part of a public resource, the Internet — just like home addresses listed in a phone book.

  • Bulk e-mailers argue their activities should be encouraged because they offer an improved form of junk mail.

Some Cons:

  • Unlike postal mail, most recipients pay to receive unwanted e-mail.

  • Being much less expensive to create and send than postal ads, spam often sends multiples to a single address, overwhelming that address’s capacity, and keeping valuable mail out.

  • E-mail ads are more likely to be offensive, inappropriate, or in violation of state or local standards than postal mail ads.

  • Unwanted spam is annoying and can enrage recipients, especially when clicking on the “remove” link doesn’t work.

Source: Internet Mail Consortium, June 2003.

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