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Frankie's Anti-Spam FAQ


Why Do You Do This?

  1. I'm an old-school Internet geek. I've been online since before commercial spam existed (heck, I pre-date that stupid Make Money Fast). So I know from personal experience that the net doesn't have to be like this. Things can be better, if everyone does their part to help.
  2. Most of the cost of spam (both time and money) is borne by the recipient rather than the sender. That's unacceptable.
  3. I oppose all forms of unsolicited advertising. When I get junkmail with a postage-paid reply envelope, I send it back. When I get phone messages for a toll-free number, I call them back and talk s-l-o-w-l-y. When I see street spam in my neighborhood, I get rid of it.

Isn't Spam a form of Free Speech?

No. Absolutely not. Legislatures and Courts at all levels of government have ruled that commercial speech does not merit full protection, and no form of speech is allowed to intrude on someone else's personal space without permission.

"Nothing in the Constitution compels us to listen to or view any unwanted communication, whatever its merit.
"We therefore categorically reject the argument that a vendor has a right under the Constitution or otherwise to send unwanted material into the home of another. If this prohibition operates to impede the flow of even valid ideas, the answer is that no one has a right to press even 'good' ideas on an unwilling recipient. That we are often 'captives' outside the sanctuary of the home and subject to objectionable speech and other sound does not mean we must be captives everywhere. The asserted right of a mailer, we repeat, stops at the outer boundary of every person's domain."
- Chief Justice Warren Burger, US Supreme Court, Rowan v US Post Office

How Can I Help Fight Spam?

  1. Obviously never buy anything from a spammer. If it's worth owning, it's available from someone else.
  2. If you can spare a minute or two, don't just hit delete. Report it! I recommend SpamCop for most users, SpamCombat for techies, and NANAE for advice.
  3. Write to your elected officials, and join sites like CAUCE.

Is Harrassment a Good Tactic?

Umm... it's illegal in most states. I recognize the poetic irony in forcing a spammer to unsubscribe from junk mail, but it's not my cup of tea. When I make phone calls regarding spam, I'd rather contact ISP abuse departments and get the spammer cut off.

I Have The Solution To Spam!

No, you don't. Please read "You might be an anti-spam kook if..." before you say another word. Rule #1: You are not able to eliminate/replace all current email software.

Any technology-based fix for spam must be able to phase in gradually, and it must provide benefits to those who install it, even if 90% of email isn't using it (yet). One example of a good non-kooky tool is Sender Permitted From.

What Was Wrong With Maryland's Spam Law?

Maryland's law allowed for small claims actions against forged or deceptive email adverts sent to or coming from Maryland. However, it contains a "Knowledge Clause" which requires the recipient to prove that the spammer should have known the recipient was a Maryland resident. Without a Do-Not-Email list, this is excessively burdensome for most plaintiffs.

Does My State Have a Spam Law?

Short answer: not any more.

As of 2004, the federal CAN-SPAM law supercedes all state spam laws (with some small exceptions). So if you were hoping to sue a spammer in the USA, it's probably too late now. Here are my opinions about the 36 state laws as of 2003/09/27:

What Would Be a Good Spam Law?

Patchwork state laws are somewhat useful, but an effective (inter)national law would be better. Unfortunately, a weak national law would actually legitimize spammers and backfire. Hence, I oppose CAN-SPAM for being toothless and anti-effective. To succeed, an anti-spam law should do the following:

  1. Ban forged headers (From, Date, etc) and routing information (Received, Message-id, etc) in bulk email. Several courts have upheld the notion that requiring truthfulness is allowed by the Commerce Clause.
  2. Commercial email must contain valid contact information. This includes email addresses, phone number, and physical address.
  3. Enact a domain-based Do-Not-Email list (aka everyone [removed] rather than individual addresses) with provisions comparable to Do-Not-Call regulations.
  4. Allow individuals and email providers legal right of action against violators. Most State Attorney Generals are unprepared to manage the technical steps needed to track down and prosecute spammers. Many ISPs and netizens are ready and willing.

Creative Commons License Back to my spam page, or wherever you came from. Last updated 2004/11/07 p.s. Jonathan Biedron rocks!

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