With all the strides we're making daily in technology it seems incongruous
that the tekkies can't come up with a simple solution to keeping these
sleazy intruders out of my e-mail box.
Nothing can ruin my mood quicker than logging on and finding unwanted,
uninvited solicitations for everything from get rich quick schemes to hard-core
porn offerings. It's filth and garbage that goes beyond annoying and bothersome
... it's infuriating. It violates the unwritten rules of the information
It's maddening because there seems to be no way of fighting back or
preventing these intrusions. Spammers are expert at hiding their true identity,
forging return addresses and even stealing the domain names of others to
avoid detection and retribution.
The allure of Internet advertising is very compelling for marketers
since they can send literally millions of promotional pieces instantly
for a fraction of traditional marketing expenses. The hard costs are incurred
by the recipient in the form of disk space charges, connect time and access
fees. Spammers can also sabotage and cause serious equipment damage to
Internet services providers.
America Online took steps last year to block unwanted e-mail from known
offenders, but king spammers, such as Cyber Promotions, filed suit against
AOL charging free speech violations. A flurry of legal skirmishes ensued
and AOL finally won the right to filter unwanted spam out of member mailboxes.
But, so what? I have filtering options enabled on America Online and
I still get hundreds of unwanted posts on a weekly basis. It's almost a
losing cause since a spammer, once discovered, can change his identity
instantly and be back in business.
In response to this never-ending battle, America Online recently expanded
its Mail Controls to give members greater autonomy in filtering electronic
mail. Sign on with the Master Screen name, press CONTROL+K and type the
keywords JUNK MAIL.
From here you can easily access the Mail Controls and set the parameters
for every screen name in your account list. You can specify to receive
e-mail from AOL members only or AOL members and other Internet e-mail addresses
that you identify. You can also list specific e-mail addresses that you
want blocked. This doesn't solve the problem, but it's a short-term remedy
for AOL users.
While citizens of the Internet are generally opposed to legislation
governing the Net, almost all agree that spam is out of control and seriously
burdening the infrastructure on the Internet.
Three pieces of federal legislation have been introduced this year that
specifically address the problem of spam: "Unsolicited Commercial Electronic
Mail Choice Act of 1997" (Murkowski, R-Arkansas); "Electronic Mailbox Protection
Act of 1997" (Torricelli, D-New Jersey); and "Netizens Protection Act of
1997" (Smith, R-New Jersey). Hopefully, these bills can move through the
legislative process in a timely manner, since professional spammers seem
to move much faster than the laws.
In the meantime, there are a few steps you can take to curb the barrage
of spam in your own mailbox. Do not fall for the REMOVE scam. Typing REMOVE
in the subject line and sending the junk mail back just verifies your e-mail
address for the bulk mailers.
Be sure your Internet provider utilizes some form of mail filtering
to head off spam before it gets to your mailbox. You can assist by forwarding
junk mail messages directly to your site e-mail administrator. If your
provider doesn't have a specific address for handling spam, mail the offending
message to postmaster@yourdomain (This is a generic address and will usually
reach your e-mail administrator). It's important to include all the header
information in any forwarded posts so the ISP can try to track down the
offending e-mail source.
Guard the privacy of your e-mail account. Never respond to unsolicited
e-mail and use caution when you post your e-mail address to the World Wide
Web as these can be captured and sold as spam lists.
Lastly, support the effort to outlaw spam by contacting your representatives
in Washington. Most legislators have e-mail addresses and can be located
through one of the following sites: www.senate.gov/senator/ index.html
or www.house.gov/ writerep/ Complete information on anti-spam efforts and
pending legislation can be found at www.junkemail.org/bills/
Maybe by this time next year, a spam update won't be necessary.