Defining Spam Is Not The Issue

from the the-big-battle dept

For a while now, I’ve been talking about how every “anti-spam” conference or discussion seems to get bogged down (right at the very beginning) on the question of “how do we define spam?” In my mind, this has always been the wrong question – and it seemed like something of a red herring thrown out by the Direct Marketing Association to delay any anti-spam rules that might slow down their (only slightly more legit) spamming operations. Now, David Berlind has written an interesting article taking a serious look at the question of a spam definition and agrees with the FTC’s Orson Swindle who claims that spam is “anything I don’t like.” In other words, it’s the end user (and not the ISPs, marketers, or government) who should be deciding what is and what is not spam. From there, he suggests that any spam solution needs to let the end-user designate what they consider spam to be. The issue isn’t what’s the single proper definition of spam – but how do we build a system that lets anyone stop getting the email they don’t want.

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Comments on “Defining Spam Is Not The Issue”

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Tim (user link) says:


I don’t think `anything the user dislikes’ is remotely adequately defined to be legislated upon, that’s the problem. “Oh no, my neighbour sent me a picture of their hamster, must sue!” … that’s crap.

If you settle on UBE, then you’ve got the unsolicited bit sorted, and the `bulk’ actually helps define it – it doesn’t just have to be one sender emitting many mails, it makes you think about each involved entity’s responsibility in the case of joe-job backscatter too: IMO, such spam or viral backscatter bounces are UBE, but the bulkishness is a distributed phenomenon, the responsibility of both the original spammer or virus writer, *and* those idiots who choose to bounce the mail rather than reject it while the SMTP connection is live.

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