How Should Spammers Be Punished?

from the deleting-spam dept

An opinion piece comparing the recent sentencing in three different spam-related cases notes the wide disparity in the sentences — but thinks it’s a good thing. The longer sentences were given in cases where the spam was simply part of a scamming effort. The criminals were punished for the scam, not for the spam. In the one clear spamming case, the guy was given a much lighter sentence. This makes sense, but raises questions about what the proper sentence for a spammer really should be. In some cases, judges have thrown the book at spammers, sentencing them to quite a bit of time in prison. But such harsh sentences risk backfiring, turning the spammer into something of a martyr. If only there were a way to set it up so convicted spammers would be forced to delete spam all day as punishment — now that would seem fair.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “How Should Spammers Be Punished?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Happy user says:

Re: Re: Spam Spam

Where are all these crack dealers you speak of? I’m sure it would be much easier to find a spam “dealer”.

Although, if I don’t want crack, I have the choice not to receive it — spam on the other hand, i get it whether I want it or not… and it doesn’t even cost me a “dime”.

no irony here, just realistic sarcasm.

Tim (user link) says:

Re: Spam Spam

> when people get harder jail time for spam than they do fo selling Crack then we have a problem.

I disagree. Chances are rather a *lot* more people are affected per minute spent sending spam than the same time spent using crack. OK, so the effects per recipient might not be so vast either – a lot of annoyed bods all having to push delete – but don’t forget corporations having to buy in extra hardware to do their filtering too.

Whatever DUDE says:

Re: Re: Spam Spam

I disagree. Chances are rather a *lot* more people are affected per minute spent sending spam than the same time spent using crack. OK, so the effects per recipient might not be so vast either – a lot of annoyed bods all having to push delete – but don’t forget corporations having to buy in extra hardware to do their filtering too.

Effecting? Dude I have to deal with spam as much as the next guy on my Network. The fact still remains the same. I will find it hard to consider that a sender of Spam getting more Jail time than a Crack dealer. Really think about this for a second. “click delete” “SMOKE & DIE”

iahawkijake says:

Re: Spammers

Thom –

On the surface it may appear that the only difference is the federal government gets money…but it’s not.

There is a lot that goes into the Direct Mailing industry and the Post Office is just one of the players. Anyone who thinks that they would rather not receive “junk mail”…ok, what are you going to say then when junk mail goes away and the cost to mail a single envelope goes up to $3.50?

Junk mail helps keep regular postage relatively cheap for the rest of us. It’s an important factor in the economy.

Simple look at the model…
Given company wants to introduce it’s new product as effectively as possible. Knowing the demographic that they are going for, they may purchase mailing lists from any number of companies files that have similar customer demographics…
Hey…someone just got paid besides the federal government.
Now they may contract out a printer to print 20,000 mailers…
Hey…someone else just got paid besides the federal government.
Now they will hire a UPS type company to drop ship bundles of these mailers to their demographic zones….
Don’t look now, but someone else just got paid.
And finally hope that 10 out of every 100 people to receive it will actually look at it and 2 people will actually buy the product.

The federal government is but a small aspect in the direct mailing industry…

So back to the topic of this thread….
What to do with Spammers? Try to legitimize it…how I don’t know…but figure out a way to make it costly to send mass emails would be a good start.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Spammers

iahawkijake, even if mass emails became legitimised — I still wouldn’t want them.

And with your analogy said, whatever it may reduce the cost of — I’m already perfectly happy with the current amount I’m already paying for “said item”, I dint need my email to be cluttered up with misleading advertisements that infringe on my already limited time schedule.

iahawkijake says:

Re: Re: Re: Spammers

AC –
Hey, I don’t want spams either. That’s not the point. I’ve pretty much accepted the fact that they will never go away 100%.

Therefore my goals would be to reduce the volume.

You think if it cost a person/organization 20k to send out a mass email communication that it wouldn’t drastically impact the volumes of spam you receive. You think you would receive any more hoax spams?

Heck, you could even go as far as taxing on top of that…and if spammers got caught trying to get around that…then you can bring them up on federal tax evasion charges. Thus negating the “uncharted waters” that the courts face when trying to deal with these people today.

Bankrupcy is no good either…because that just costs tax payers money.

I’m not advocating spam, I’m just trying to throw out ways to reduce it.


Christopher TruLove (user link) says:

Re: Spammers

argh… on several counts…

Despite the US in their moniker the post office is just a very large interstate company, they sell a service… someone buys it… as a reciever you DON’T pay for it… and the money in question goes to the USPS, not the government (think about it, if congress ran the Post Office it would cost $8 to send a post card, and it would be mandatory to do so)

SPAM is pretty much the antithesis of that, the sender spends almost nothing to distribute it, depending on the money the the recievers have spent (in the form of the internet hardware they take advantage of), to deliver to a recipient that IS paying for their mailbox…

it only looks the same on the surface, trying to turn it into a “The Man” argument is kind of silly, though perhaps not as silly as SPAM being a tool to illegally acquire oil or oppress non-caucasians… which I’m sure will come up eventually.

Dave (user link) says:

Re: Spammers

Why should spammers be subject to punishment when companies who send postal junk mail are not? It seems the only difference is that when junk mail goes via the USPS the federal government gets money from it. That’s a bit hypocritical, yes?

There is a difference. The snail mail spammers aren’t hijacking innocent peoples’ mail servers, causing them to get blacklisted, thus impinging on their own right/ability to send legitimate email.

Maybe spammers should have to apply for a permit to send mass emails.

Sounds like a good idea, provided that there is a suitable opt-out system, and the law comes down like a ton of bricks on spammers who don’t misbehave.

Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

Twist on the movie SAW

Lock them in a cell with enough food and water to last them 30 days.

The lock on the door is a combination lock.

The combination for the lock is in broken up and hidden in multiple e-mails on the computer in the cell.

There are 10,000,000,000,000 e-mails on the computer in the cell.

Oh, and the e-mail containing the combination is disguised to look like spam.

If that’s not cruel and unusual enough, the computer is running Windows ME and the e-mail program is Lotus Notes and the connection to the network is a 28.8K modem…

Scott Kirkpatrick (user link) says:


I don’t like spam and I have considered ways to return those insane flyers that come in to my mailbox via the USPS. It is to thepoint that I don’t know what is real mail and what is junk. I simply logon to my online accounts with the creditors I have and shred my USPS mail. I wuld probably pay 5 – 10 bucks a month to receive my USPS mail electronically via a USPS email account but it would probably be filled with SPAM also…..

Does anyone have an AOL disk or does everyone have atleast 10 of them?

WildZBill says:

Spammers punishment

I would like to see spammers and anyone else that clogs the internet or crashes our computers treated as terrorists.
They are causing people to fear the internet, and internet commerce. This slows down the rapid growth we should be experiencing now. IMHO spam and viruses have caused much more damage to the economy then the terrorists ever will.
A few years in solitary confinement, and forbidden to use any form of computer for the rest of their life (including cell phones).

lizard (user link) says:

rabid wolverines

i run a small server. i set up an old URL of mine that used i used to give my friends email addys with, and forgot to set the default addy to :fail:. a couple weeks later i went to put up a little guestbook so old friends could keep in touch, and surprise! the account was over its server space limit!
67 thousand spams, in a little more than two weeks.
not to mention my blog, which has maybe — *maybe* five readers, yet does well over two gigs traffic per month, all referrer-log spam.
so i’ve given this spam penalty a *lot* of thought and i think spammers should be staked out naked in the hot sun with their heads propped up on bloated porcupine carcasses so they can watch while rabid wolverines feast on their entrails.

Zonker (user link) says:

All kidding aside

Spammers are more than an annoyance. They cost people a lot of money — I used to work for a hosting company, and I’d say at least 10 percent of our helpdesk ticket volume was related to spam in some fashion. Much of the time spent by our employees dealing with spam-related problems was not recoverable — ie, we couldn’t bill the customer for time spent helping them, nor could we recover any money from the spammer.

There’s also the bandwidth fee — usually negligible for individuals, but for ISPs, hosting providers, large companies, etc., it adds up and ends up contributing to the bandwidth bill significantly. (Imagine a neighbor running a few extension cords into your house to power their computer, dryer, and AC.)

So — given the monetary burden placed on others, not to mention the scuzzballs that send out pr0n spam and end up exposing kids and unsuspecting adults to that sort of thing, spam is far enough beyond a mere annoyance to justify putting spammers away for decades. Alternately, I’d be in favor of a punishment that consists of putting a spammer alone in a room full of sysadmins with cricket bats for an hour.

SUNYIT says:

Spammer's Consequence

As punishment, they should be forced to live up to their name, on all levels, being allowed to eat only SPAM (spiced ham of course) for a given length of time, according to the severity of their crime. They should be allowed a laptop with internet, but everytime they touch the keyboard or move the mouse, a new flashing popup or spam email pops up on their screen. Justice would be served.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...