Spam

I’ve started getting spam to one of my non-advertised addresses; needless to say it had leaked out onto the web. It is reported this week that 40% of email is now spam, a massive increase on the figures for 2001. Even more disturbingly, I have started getting Nigerian spam via phone to my second (unadvertised) phoe number.

I’ve always been an opponent of anti-spam excesses, and have been left behind by geekdom’s march towards tougher anti-spam technology and (in some cases) legislation. What really motivates this is that I care about having an end-to-end Internet more than I care about the small, increasing and non-zero cost of manually filtering my email. Anti-spam is regarded by some as a bigger threat to the nature of the Internet than the RIAA; there’s a good paper by Dan Burk (or Mark Lemley?) about this. Even JCN has considered intervening in email transit to block spam passing through machines it’s involved in running, rather than leaving this at the option of the recipient. I’m still with John Gilmore on open relays, myself.

But I’ve been running SpamAssassin for a few months to tag my spam visually. It’s has very few false positives (once I’ve whitelisted Robin Walker and Francesa Lowe, at any rate), and I’m quite close to having it hijack email and put it in a different Inbox. (note the use of the language of physical violence to describe what is really the act of determining which data file to append some text to).

Legislatively, we now have a European Directive dealing with spam, and strong public awareness of the issue. NTK is trying to whip up interest in the use of spam by respectable organisations (Ok, I don’t respect British Telecom or whoever in the RSPCA “abused” faxyourmp.com, but hey). I just hope the solutions don’t squash too much freedom of expression and freedom to receive rubbish.

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