by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
sentences, spam

More Spammers Getting More Long Term Sentences; But Does It Help?

from the rot-in-jail dept

While there are still plenty of people out there who think that there can be no punishment that is too cruel for spammers, it still seems like incredibly long sentences are a bit out of proportion with the crime. Two more spammers have now been sentenced to over five years each for sending out pornographic spam emails in violation of CAN SPAM. There is an argument to be made that such high penalties act as a deterrent to other spammers, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence that that's true. Considering that the amount of spam being sent has continued to grow over time (despite some other high profile sentences) it's unclear whether these long sentences really do much good.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Dick Fer, Oct 15th, 2007 @ 9:49pm

    What about overseas?

    Domestic legislation does nothing about overseas spam. 99% of the spam I receive is from the UK, somewhere in Africa, or China. I've seen numbers that say that 30% to 50% is sourced in the US, but they're moving overseas where no one cares.

    Politicians have a long history of writing bad legislation and then celebrating a great victory for humanity in front of the news media.
    Politicians have no idea about technology, or how to enforce what they do write. And they have no idea what to do about operations outside the borders.
    Frankly, if it were up to me, I'd tie import taxes to spam counts from overseas.
    The Chinese would quickly take care of spam when faced with massive import taxes. In Africa, cut aid to Africa until they solve the spam problem. Or, just cut off internet access from Africa to the US. They will quickly solve the problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Willton, Oct 15th, 2007 @ 9:55pm

    Stick with big fines

    I'm cool with giant fines being levied on porn spammers, but I think jail time is a bit unwarranted. The whole reason for the spam is the hope to make money. If one creates a criminal sanction that eliminates the gain from such an act, I think that would have more of the desired effect of deterrence. The jail time is more of a deontological punishment, not a utilitarian one.

    Besides, aren't American state and federal prisons overcrowded anyway?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Buzz, Oct 15th, 2007 @ 9:59pm


    Until the RIAA/MPAA are forced to change their ways concerning fining/jailing their customers, I am perfectly OK with spammers on the receiving end of the heavy hammer. They deserve it. I hate spam.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Max Powers at, Oct 15th, 2007 @ 10:00pm

    Spam Sentences

    I hate spam as much as the next guy but long prison terms is not the answer. Our prisons are already overcrowded here in the USA and I believe we should save the room for violent criminals. Also we would have to use our tax dollars to "support" these people in prison.

    I don't have the answers except maybe to hit them where it hurts, in their wallets. What about requiring them to work in a government facility using their computer skills until they have paid back the cost of prosecuting them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2007 @ 10:37pm

    Locking the scum up is a waste of time and money. Take away everything they own and make them work in community service projects for whatever the equivalent jail term might have been.

    If you take away what they value most, money, and make them actually work rather than simply scamming people, you might have an effective deterrent.

    As somebody has already said, if you have places like China and Africa which simply don't care pumping out the spam then you're not going to solve the problem until effective deterrents for those places can be found. Cutting their Internet access sounds good.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2007 @ 10:37pm

    What? You have a problem with squishing spammers in with violent criminals?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    inc, Oct 15th, 2007 @ 10:57pm

    Re: What about overseas?

    The spam that hits our million dollar anti-spam system is mainly from US, mainly Florida but from other states too, followed by Poland and the rest.
    I think a better deterrent then prison is to hit them in the pockets. They make so much money off spamming that they just take it the cost of doing business. I think following to the money chain to the corporations paying out for making sales from spamming would help cut off funding for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Haywood, Oct 16th, 2007 @ 4:49am

    The trouble with laws.....

    The trouble with laws is that no matter the punishment, people don't think they will be caught. Think about murder, several states still have the death penalty, yet murders happen every day. You would think that would be the ultimate deterrent, death is about as severe as punishment can get, yet it doesn't do much to stop the problem. People who would obey laws don't need them, people who need them wouldn't obey them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Joel Coehoorn, Oct 16th, 2007 @ 6:06am

    I think the prison sentence is base in part on the pornography aspect of the case. This spam goes to anybody without respect for age, including minors. Sending pornography to minors is an offense worth some prison time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Charles, Oct 16th, 2007 @ 6:25am

    Re: What about overseas?

    This is cruel and tasteless, middle ages stuff! Would you cut off food aid to those starving babies who have never seen a computer in their lives, nor even know what a computer is, just because someone on the African continent has inconvenienced you by sending spam to your computer?

    Recently, the UK's SOCA (Serious Organized Crime Agency) arrested 70 criminals in five countries, and these individuals were involved in various types of Internet crime. I noticed a big drop in the amount of spam I receive, from more than 10 a day to about one in two/three days [I traced one of the spam emails to USA].

    If the US [and others] would cooperate with other countries and international forces like Interpol, and allow US citizens to be extradited to other countries, we'd get some way towards solving this problem! It needs cooperation by all countries, not just Africa, China or Europe.

    Charles, Bristol (UK)
    ps: How I traced a spam email to USA: One of the emails I received advertised some product and a website address. I used Internet's WHOIS facility to find out the name of the person who owned that web address and his/her phone number. I phoned the guy at his home in Washington state and woke him up from bed!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Straif, Oct 16th, 2007 @ 6:49am

    Spammers are only half the problem. The other half of the problem, and I'd say it is the larger half, are the people that buy from spam. Deprived of a market, there would be far fewer spammers. (The majority of current spammers would move on to something else, probably also antisocial, but one battle at a time).

    The solution is to punish the consumers. Fines and jail time are out of the question, however, shame might be effective. Every time a spammer is busted, seize his records and publish them. At best, your neighbors would know you are an idiot. At worst, they'd know you are a very "small", impotent idiot with a bit of a drug problem and a fondness for photos of clowns in bondage gear.

    And don't think for a moment that the spammers don't keep good records. They rely on repeat business. I know someone that was buying narcotics from an online pharmacy. He ended up changing his phone numbers because he went clean and they would call several times a day trying to get him to refill his prescriptions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Glo, Oct 16th, 2007 @ 8:29am

    it would help iff

    It would help if and only if there were a consistent pattern, readily discernable by all, that showed that if you spammed and were visible enough, say got caught in the FTC's spamtraps, that you had a greater than 50-50 chance of doing 5 years or more. ... Hard time, not ClubFed.

    As it is, the prosecutions are too few, not predictable, statistically insignificant for a spammer to be able to predict his odds. By eyeball, a spammer sees his chances of getting away with it as very, very good.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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