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RISKS of Spam

In RISKS-19.31, Dennis Glatting reports having blocked all e-mail from a site after having gotten just one spam that was apparently from that site. That's the biggest RISK of spam in my opinion. It cuts us off from each other.

  • Filters meant to discard spam often discard legitimate e-mail.
  • People who realize that much e-mail is discarded unread are less likely to take the time to write informative e-mail, since it will very likely never be seen by the recipient.
  • People who know where spammers find e-mail addresses are likely to stop posting useful messages to newsgroups or mailing lists, and are likely to ask that all their past messages be removed from any online archives. Or they may post using a fake address, making it impossible for them to receive legitimate replies.
  • Archivists may get disgusted at the number of people asking to be removed, and may shut down their archive.
  • People have been falsely accused of spamming, and unjustly punished.
  • Newsgroup posters who post under a fake address and direct all replies -- including ones not of general interest -- to the newsgroup, cause newsgroups to fill with junk, causing people to stop reading them.
  • So does newsgroup spam, which has already rendered numerous newsgroups totally unusable and abandoned. On several, I've checked 100 consecutive messages and found that every one of them was spam. Starting over with a new newsgroup doesn't help, since spammers will take over the new one too.
Our moderator reports that he [*] rejects all e-mail from sites on which there are lots of spammers. [Not me; our entire site is being subjected to spams, and our Admins decided that is the only thing we can do at the moment. PGN] That's a perfect example of what I'm talking about.

Spam is rapidly making the net unusable. It's as if you spent the day in a business meeting, a hobby club meeting, a PTA meeting, and an author talk at a bookstore, only to have every event repeatedly interrupted by outsiders who read a commercial pitch (probably for a pyramid scheme or a quack remedy) then leave without listening for replies.

I wouldn't be surprised if the true costs of spam are already in the billions of dollars, mostly in lost opportunity costs. In return for which, perhaps a half-dozen people are making a mediocre living, mostly by selling spamming services to the gullible and larcenous who can't believe that if they send one-million ads for an MLM or credit-repair scheme, they will probably get fewer than ten positive responses.

Back to Other Voices

Keith Lynch / kfl@clark.net