Posted Wednesday, December 8, 2004
Let me start this article by stating I am vehemently opposed to spam and that it is the worst possible way to get your message out. Various groups have been trying to stop spam since it was first used on the internet. However, how can we stop or outlaw something which has never been clearly defined.
I have been unable to find a universally accepted, fits-all definition of spam. There are many ideas about spam and just what it really is. In my opinion it is receiving unsolicited email (email which you have not opted to receive). Even this definition must be applied judiciously and with a certain amount of common sense.
For example, a dear friend could forward an email which you find offensive. Should you be in a bad mood, you could report your friend for spam (and also the originator of the email your friend forwarded, even though it was not the originator's intent for you to receive this unsolicited email). In this situation the originator (who is innocent of wrongdoing) and your friend will most likely lose their ISP and web host provider simply because you are having a bad day. Is this fair?
More and more ezine publishers and article writers are being accused of spam and forced to fight their ISPs and web host providers. Many of these spam complaints are totally unfounded. In some cases it is because a person forgot they subscribed to the ezine and when they receive it they say they have been spammed. In other cases the person has written an article which was published in an ezine accused of spamming. Here all the advertisers and the article writers are accused of spam and lose their ISPs and web host providers.
These advertisers and article writers did not commit the offense of spamming. They were accused by association. Most articles written for the internet are free for publication, which means anyone can use them as long as the articles and resource boxes remain intact. Unless the writer is being paid for the article, there is no way of knowing when, how or by whom the article will be published.
The truly unfair method currently used to fight spam considers everyone accused of spam to be automatically guilty. The great majority of ISPs and web host providers shut you down without a second thought when you are accused of spam.
You are not given a chance to prove your innocence. Guilty or not, you are shut down. For most of those trying to make a profit on the internet, this is a sword hanging over their heads. Every time they write an article for publication or send out an ezine they are taking the chance of being unfairly accused of spamming.
No ezine publisher or writer in their right mind would ever consider the use of spam. Their livelihood depends on their ezines and articles, so why would they use something which would destroy that source of income?
Those who use spam as the method of getting their advertisements out should be stopped. But not by taking all the innocent people down with them.
True spam is usually fairly easy to spot. There is a bogus return address consisting of nonsensical numbers and letters, either no way is provided to remove yourself from the list or a bogus address is provided as a means of removing yourself from the list, there is a footer in the message which contains a supposed act of the United States Congress defining spam, or other such obvious items.
99.9% of the ezines I have read have a clear and easy way to unsubscribe. Should you use the link and find you have not been unsubscribed, it is possible you subscribed using another email address which is being forwarded to your current address. The ezine publisher cannot unsubscribe you without the original address from which you subscribed.
If you are really upset by spam, why not concentrate on those who are truly guilty of spamming, and not the innocents. Use your efforts to punish the guilty instead of indiscriminately crying spam every time a piece of email hits your inbox.
As an ezine publisher I get a great deal of spam in my inboxes. Rather than waste my precious time trying to track spammers down or reporting them to Spam Cop, I use my delete button. It is efficient and deadly. The spam is gone as soon as I hit delete.
One of the truly great characteristics of the internet is its use for the free exchange of information. This freedom is being seriously challenged by those who believe in the indiscriminate use of Spam Cop or other such anti-spam organizations.
I can't speak for you, but I get a great deal of information, education and entertainment from the many ezines to which I subscribe. It would be a severe loss if they all quit publishing because of the fear of false spam accusals shutting them down.
In conclusion, spam should be stopped. However, it must be stopped with common sense and discrimination, not with a vigilante mentality. Being accused of spamming is one of the rare instances in current human history where you are considered guilty until proven innocent.
Whatever happened to the concept of innocent until proven guilty?
Should anyone out there in cyberspace have a universally acceptable definition of spam and a means of fairly and judiciously enforcing it, I am extremely interested in your viewpoints.
About the Author
Robert Taylor. Subscribe to the Key To Success And Wealth ezine. All new subscribers receive a fantastic ebook valued at $38.50. Subscribe by mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org Please place first name in body of email. Send comments to mailto:email@example.com