What is Spam?

What Is Spam — Exactly — And What Isn’t?
By Walter Daniels

What Is Spam — Exactly — And What Isn’t?

By Walter Daniels

There seem to be two ways of thinking prevalent about the use of the Internet. Neither of which is correct, or useful.
1) The Internet started as a non-commercial operation and should not be contaminated with business.
2) There are no rules and I can do as I please.
Both of these attitudes are essentially selfish and greedy. Neither contributes to the community atmosphere that can make the ‘Net so useful to everyone. Fortunately, the first attitude is disappearing as more people get connected.

However, the second is dangerous to everyone, as more use the ‘Net. BTW, when I say ‘Net, I mean Usenet, WWW, and Email. I have been actively participating since the early days of some of the more useful email lists, like I-Sales Digest from MMGCO, in addition to being active on Usenet, and other email fora. So I am _more_ than qualified to contest the idea that you can do what you want. You may not see it, but there is a *strong* cultural attitude of being friendly and helpful on the ‘Net.

For me that means being willing to answer questions on email lists, and in UseNet NewsGroups where I have knowledge. There are some who believe that this means they can send me any email they want. Now, I don’t mind being helpful with genuine questions, but I draw the line at *junk* email.

I am active in many areas, which means my Web site and email addresses appear in a lot of places. That does _not_ mean I want to have my time wasted by MMF/GRQ, or attempts to sell me: food plans, CCD cameras, software, dental/optical plans, bulk email programs, etc. I have a telephone number on all my business cards/brochures/advertising, does that mean I should accept telemarketing calls unrelated to the business there? I *do* want to hear from those with info requests, possible sales orders, and related questions. If _you_ (whoever you may be) do not understand the difference, you will not last in business.

Spammers *do not care if you are offended by unwanted contacts.* All they care about is *numbers.* These idiots would burn down a forest to roast a pig, with no concern for the future. If I receive an unsolicited request, that *has been deliberately targeted to me,* I don’t _automatically_ complain. In more than two years, I have received _less_ than _5_ of these. If I have no sense that you did anything more than pull my name off a list, *it is spam.* An example is an email I got a few weeks back.

I sell, among other things, customized coffee mugs, which means I must buy them somewhere. I got an email offering to sell me mugs in quantity, at low prices, *by an Asian exporter.* I didn’t complain to the ISP, because they made an effort to find their market. *I* use specially coated mugs, so I have a limited supplier list, and couldn’t use them. They made a good faith effort to find those who might _actually_ use/want what they sell. Since there are companies that sell bulk emailing with _no_ concern for the consequences, I am compiling a list of them to file denial of service attack complaints, with their backbones. These have been _politely_ asked to stop, and refuse to do so. So, now they will pay for that misbehavior.

If someone sent me, unsolicited, a serious business proposition, I won’t ignore or complain about it. However, if I recognize one of several companies that fake return addresses, or have fake “remove” options, that is another story. Too often, the “remove” site is either a XXX site, or an address collector. I do not like being electronically accosted by someone too lazy to do more than collect “business owner” names and email addresses. As John Audette of I-Sales can attest, sales is finding the person who wants/needs what you sell/produce and solving their problems. If I sell pure pork hot dogs, the *last* people I would solicit to buy them are Jews/Muslims. So if I do try to convince a Jew or Muslim to eat one, I should not be surprised if they react badly to the contents.

There is a great temptation on the part of some to ignore the Get Rich Quick schemes and the like. This is exactly how they continue. Someone says, “ignore them, they don’t hurt anyone.” Yes they do. Telecommunications and postal fraud are serious matters. They bring _long_ jail sentences to the poor fools who believe they are harmless and continue them. The originator _rarely_ gets caught, because it takes so long to find them. In the meantime, the originator has gotten rich from the fools at lower levels. Criminals get caught because someone said, “It is up to me to stop the activity, _before_ it hurts me.” Robbery is still robbery, whether it uses a gun, an email, or a postage stamp.

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Reprinted with permission by Walter Daniels. © Copyright 1998.

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