President Bush Using Challenge-Response Anti-Spam System

from the will-mailblocks-sue? dept

Apparently the Whitehouse has recently changed the system by which you can email the President. It used to be, of course, that you just send an email to – at which point it would be reviewed by the lowest of the lowly staffers charged with sorting through the spam, and probably get no further. Now, however, all that has changed. Emailing gets you an autoresponse, leading to a series of webpages that you need to go through, answering various questions, categorizing your email (is it a “supporting comment” or a “differing opinion”?). The article comes at this from the expected “look how it’s becoming more difficult to connect with our elected officials” angle – which is a very valid point. However, the first thing that struck me, is that they’ve really just added a rather primitive, highly annoying “challenge-response” anti-spam system. It works exactly like the basic challenge response systems: (a) you email the President (b) instead of getting the email, you receive a reply telling you to go to a webpage (c) at that webpage, you need to perform certain tasks to prove you are human. I wonder if Mailblocks will sue? Update: Apparently all this attention for the Whitehouse mail site has knocked it offline.

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Comments on “President Bush Using Challenge-Response Anti-Spam System”

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Ed Halley says:

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If all they wanted was to weed out various non-official emails, they can certainly employ any number of known automatic filtering methods. I’m sure they do that anyway, but for legal reasons they can’t discard quite as aggressively as private citizens.

If all they wanted to do was to categorize and correlate constituent opinions, again, they could just automate that process with some very crude language analysis.

The same kind of rules SpamAssassin uses to discard emails with “romanian sluts” can also find and mark mails containing phrases which indicate invective, disagreement, agreement, and a number of expected issues like “faith-based” or “uraniumgate”.

This is just what the staffers already do by hand, and continues to keep a very low barrier for constituent involvement. The rest of the process is looking for good sound-bites that should go up the ladder, and arranging the right canned response in an official envelope.

This scheme does neither job effectively, and raises barriers which are counter to the First Amendment’s guarantee that citizens can redress their grievances.

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