Spammers should be treated like the "horse thieves" of the Old West. Why, just as the horse thieves deprived a person of his livelihood, so do spammers interfere with the lives and jobs of the people they accost.
I would even be more stringent with spyware that captures a location and prevents a person from obtaining his E-mail.
Let us understand that we have only two cheeks. After they have been slapped, there is only one other place to be abused.
Government Action Needed
I hate to say it, but government oversight is a must. This would be both to satisfy the interstate aspects and the uniformity of punishment.
1. Define spam. We all know what it is, to each of us. However, I would guess that a definition should be tight enough to pass the ACLU and broad enough to be effective. A minefield here in view of the fact the government daily delivers "hard" spam in the form of mailings. And then there are the Sunday supplements, Thursday supplements (in Dayton), Saturday supplements (Sidney), and daily personals/want ads.
2. Pass effective laws and establish a punishment system/schedule that addresses the real costs of dealing with spam. If we can put the Enron execs in prison, surely we can prosecute and imprison spammers based on the costs of dealing with their output. There should be laws affecting both the spammers and the ISPs that enable them. (I am slightly to the right of Attila the Hun, but public maiming may not be out of the question here.)
These laws should be enacted simply, quickly, and across the entire spectrum of marketing. Perhaps the "good" spam is that which is specifically requested, via Web site solicitation. There should also be a ban/limitation on any type of mailing list or directory harvesting. There should be instantaneous (not two days or two weeks) removal of a name when requested from a mailing list. There should be a national repository of "do-not-E-mail" addresses (similar to the [illegal?] do-not-call list); a central location where "authorized" or "legitimate" E-mail broadcasters must daily or weekly scan for names to remove from their lists.
A subset of the legislation should be:
A realistic estimate of the daily cost to businesses for employees just to delete spam
A realistic estimate of the daily cost to businesses for those poor souls that feel obligated to open/read the spam
A realistic estimate of the annual costs to businesses for purchase and administration of anti-spam software
A realistic estimate of the annual costs to businesses for lost productivity due to lost bandwidth due to spam
A realistic estimate of the daily loss of personal time (home) for Internet users just to delete spam
A realistic estimate of the annual costs to private Internet users for purchase and administration of anti-spam software
3. Aggressively pursue spammers/ISPs that break the laws; aggressive as in proactive
Example: A few small towns in Ohio have allowed police officers to emulate 14-year-old girls in chat rooms and then invite sickos to come and meet them. Everyone from truck drivers to college professors has been caught in these stings.
The comment here is use the power of the Internet and perhaps the power of military/government computer systems to root out the sources and deal with them. Do not wait for complaints. "Profile" spammers/ISPs that issue spam and go for the jugular.
Summary: Legislate, Enact, Enforce.
I will now get off my soapbox.
Regards, Duane Mullen
Go After The Advertisers
Spammers are the problem, and anything we as an industry can do should be done in an attempt to slow them down and/or stop them. The legal efforts by Microsoft and others should be the main thrust of the attack once the spammer is identified. However, the manner in which spammers go about hiding their actual identities should tell us something. They know that what they are doing is really causing considerable consternation to everyone who has an E-mail address.
But reality is what it is. The spammer is the vehicle that uses the technology to deliver the message. In conjunction with the legal efforts to close down the spammer, have we ever considered, or better yet, should we not consider imposing fines on those organizations that use the spamming vehicle to "advertise" their products and services?
Where it is difficult to identify the spammer, it is not difficult to identify the advertiser. By imposing fines on those that use the spammer to promote what they are offering, we may be able to impact their financial gain in a negative manner. Spammers are making money somewhere along the line. More than likely the money they are making is based on the number of hits their services provide to those that use their service. If we cut off the revenue stream from those that advertise via this vehicle, I would be willing to bet that the number of spam messages will dwindle to a trickle.
Spammers are a big problem, but those that pay for their service are the root of the problem.
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