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Should Spam Be Outlawed?

-Stan Gelber

I do not like Spam, either the food or the e-mail variety! I don't like the food because as a child, I was force-fed it on a regular basis. My mother must have thought it was one of the basic food groups. That's not to say that Spam does not provide nutritional value or even tastes bad, it's a personal preference.

With Spam the unsolicited e-mail variety, I find most of it quite offensive, a waste of Internet resources, and a general pain in the rear-end, and while I can be considered liberal, I am even offended by some of the X-rated e-mail solicitations I receive. But should it be made illegal? My simple answer is no, however I must also clarify that "no" with the following points.

If unsolicited e-mail were made illegal it would not be enforceable because of the global nature of the Internet. US laws against spam could not stop spam from outside our borders and would simply give countries such as the Cayman Islands another big boost to their economic base.

Additionally, I believe some forms of unsolicited e-mail should be legal! How would we notify you of changes to Healthlinks, or how would an ISP keep you up to date on its services? And is that warm holiday greeting that your cousin e-mailed to over 300 of his closest friends and relatives really just a spam? How would a government bureaucrat know?

Now that I have that off my chest, what can be done about spam?
  1. Make it illegal to use an incorrect return address. Most spam does this to avoid the hate mail that would otherwise be returned as replies.
  2. This law could be enforced by getting agreements from all ISPs (internet service providers) around the world to work together to manage this and filter out e-mail with phony return addresses.
  3. Provide a central registration point (one that works) where we can specify we do not want to receive unsolicited e-mail.
  4. Charge a small fee to the sender for using the e-mail service in excess of x number of e-mail messages each month. I think this would slow down the amount of junk mail we receive.

I'm sure other solutions are possible and if you have any ideas or thoughts regarding this, please e-mail me and I'll make your comments available in future articles.



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