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ATPM 10.03
March 2004




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The Candy Apple

by Ellyn Ritterskamp,

Clutter, Clutter Everywhere

The National Do-Not-Call Registry survived a challenge in court, in which telemarketing companies had said it was unconstitutional. The US Circuit Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit decision said that the 57 million registrants were entitled to privacy and protection from telemarketing abuse. The companies had brought suit, saying it was unfair that political and charitable organizations were exempt from the rules of the Registry. In kid language, they’d said, “If so-and-so gets to do it, I should get to do it.” The 10th Circuit Court disagreed.

Yay for them for them. They got it right. Fifty-seven million Americans is a lot of people to say they want something stopped. We get only a small part of that many to vote in general elections—they must feel strongly about this issue!

So what I want to know is, since the National Do-Not-Call Registry is working (for me it really, really is), when can we get started on a Do-Not-Spam Registry? I’m sure my experience is typical: my morning e-mail consists of usually 75 e-mails or so, received in the nine hours since I went to bed. Possibly half a dozen are from people I know. Maybe one or two I want to open and read. (I will confess that most ATPM staff mail concerns technical stuff I can’t begin to understand.)

I will say that junk e-mail has two advantages over junk paper mail. One is that it does not waste trees. The other is that it can be disposed of very easily.

These advantages do not mean I want to continue receiving junk e-mail for the rest of my life if an alternative is available. I don’t want to suggest there is a governmental responsibility to regulate spam. The minute we involve the government is when we begin to give up liberty. I’m willing to sacrifice some convenience for liberty. Besides, the Internet crosses governmental lines, which is cool.


There’s nothing that says we can’t charge for spam, just like the US Postal Service charges for bulk mail. It costs those marketers actual money to mail me junk, and I want it to cost the e-mailers, too. Say a penny a piece. Say the ISPs charge you a penny for every e-mail you send. I’d pay it, in a second, especially if I knew it would run some of those vermin out of business.

Not all spammers are vermin. Just most of them.

We can fix this, without government intervention. All you bright people, economics people, techies, figure it out and let us know.

Shiny Things

We’re getting a new Apple retail store a few miles from my house. I will have to resist the urge to go over there and buy all sorts of toys. Like gadgety things for my first-generation iPod. And a laptop with Mac OS X so I can buy music from the Apple store. And an AirPort card. And a new monitor for my G3, which I am not replacing anytime soon because it works just fine for what I need. Perhaps resistance is futile…


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Reader Comments (10)

aechase · March 2, 2004 - 06:59 EST #1
Agree with this article, SPAM is a royal pain in the....But, annoying as it is, we might well regret any arbitrary controls of spam, (how to use it and who gets to use it)...I'd rather swear and delete than think someone trying to run a small business at home couldn't take advantage of mass mailing. Same thing with telemarketing; telemarketing companies have become big employers, by now most of us know at least one person that would be hurt if anything was done to control long does it take to hang up the phone; or simply disconnect it during supper...
Dave · March 2, 2004 - 08:17 EST #2
The true way to solve spam is two-fold: to expand international legal apparatuses so we can chase down fraud artists even if they're in South Korea or Taiwan, and to fix SMTP so that you know who's really sending each message. That would also do wonders for viruses. There are some good solutions out there - unfortunately Microsoft's is probably the least desirable.
Paul Barker, London, ON · March 2, 2004 - 09:41 EST #3
Spam is a nuisance sure, but with most email programs having some capability to delete it automatically, it isn't as bad as it once was. Sure, you may have to spend a little time training your email program to recognize spam, but you can cut down the amount of spam you have to deal with quite drastically.
It sure beats letting someone else decide for you what you should receive.
Chris Brown, Norway · March 2, 2004 - 10:41 EST #4
Americans' sceptism of national government often amazes me. Why the agro? I thought you had a democracy? But I am humbled by your willingness to accept spam. To me it is a severely irritating limitation of my freedom use my time as I want to. Spam is also sand in the machinery of effective production, locally and worldwide, because it produces something a lot of us don't want. That people are employed in a business is no great arguement for not regulating it; crime offers "jobs" too. If a private solution can be found, great. But I would think it is more efficient to get governments to do this. And anyway, I think govt. is partly there to defend me when I want it to.
M Mothra · March 2, 2004 - 12:10 EST #5
Would Mr Barker please enlighten the rest of us on how to filter gibberish spam sent from harvested email addresses? I used to get 2 or 3 spams a month, now I get 6+ gibberish spams a day. And aechase's excuse that a small business would be locked out is nonsense. I find small businesses (both brick and mortar and online) by using search engines, certainly not by opening every spam email I get to determine whether its junk mail, a virus/trojan, or a small business pleading for attention. As a matter of fact, nothing irritates me more than a small business harvesting email addresses from the chamber of commerce and e-soliciting me. BTW, I own a small business myself.
aechase · March 3, 2004 - 07:22 EST #6
Apologies to M Mothra. SPAM has a totally negative impact, that no legitimate, serious minded business would touch with a 10' pole. I confess; unsolicited e-mail received here goes straight to the "junk" mailbox. I just don't think government controls are the way to go.
anonymous · March 5, 2004 - 10:03 EST #7
The authors comments about government inhibiting liberty are specious and just plain wrong. This is typical unthinking government bashing. It is just plain ignorance. She needs to go back and re-read US history especially the part concerning the Articles of Confederation and why they were a failure and had to be replaced with a strong central government. Sure, the government isn't perfect. Just like any business or family there are problems. But what US state would have passed civil rights legislation giving many disenfranchised people full rights that were hitherto denied them? What state would have the resources to take on organized crime? What state would have cut the poverty rate for the elderly in half? Interstate highways? Head Start? Clean air and water acts? Medicare? Medicaid? Ban on leaded gasoline? Ban on DDTs? The list goes on. So, I think the author should think once in a while before she makes such bland stereotypical generalizations.
OS9er · March 10, 2004 - 14:42 EST #8
And a new monitor for my G3, which I am not replacing anytime soon because it works just fine for what I need. Perhaps resistance is futile…

No it's not!

If OS X 10.3—which I use only at home for emails and internet surfing due to its not-ready-for-primetime quality and its "changed-for-change sake" un-Mac interface—got to the almost acceptable level of usability it has now it was only because of the resistance of true blue Mac users like us who decided not to adopt until Apple get it straight:

If it's not going to feel like a true Mac, I might as well switch to Windows

Resistance got us everything that resembles a Mac in OS X. But it is STILL so lacking in the interface/user experience department it hurts. Let's keep it going 'til Apple gets its act together.

Nigel Briggs · March 15, 2004 - 13:51 EST #9
OS9er may have missed the point. Apple got where it is today by innovating and designing itself out of the death spiral that it was in before Jobs came back.

OSX is not only ready for prime time, it is prime time - I use it at work and home, interface with a Novell and Windows-dominated network with very few difficulties

Resistance makes sense, if you are talking about slowing your personal urge to spend on the newest digital bling-bling. But don't mistake comfort for perfection. OS9 can be left behind as you mature to the point that you need a faster and more capable machine/OS combo.

Take a deep breath. it will be alright!

fips152 · March 17, 2004 - 00:43 EST #10
I agree that 57 million telephone numbers being registered in the Do Not Call Registry is a lot, but your arithmetic is confusing:

"Fifty-seven million Americans is a lot of people to say they want something stopped. We get only a small part of that many to vote in general elections—they must feel strongly about this issue!"

In 2000 about 105.5 million U.S. citizens voted (about 67.5% of registered voters, or about 51% of voting-age people). 105.5 million is a lot more than 57 million.

A better comparison would be the 57 million registrations to the total number of households (80 or 90 million, I think).

About your statement:

"We can fix this, without government intervention. All you bright people, economics people, techies, figure it out and let us know."

I must reply:

No! If you think that it can be solved without government intervention, then you figure it out. You supply the answer. Don't try to dump it onto "techies" (an insulting term with its diminishing sense), the "free market" or anyone else. Otherwise you're just avoiding the responsibility for providing a solution, which is about the same as asking the government to supply a solution.

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