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Essays on Junk E-mail (Spam)

Essays on Junk E-mail (Spam)

Here you will find my essays of the problem of Junk E-mail, often known as SPAM.

Some of these are in preliminary form and comments are welcome.

I define E-mail abuse to be mail that meets all three of these criteria:

  1. It is unsolicited
  2. It is part of a "mass mailing." (bulk mail)
  3. The sender is a stranger to the recipient. (The recipient has never had wilful personal contact with the sender.)

Spam is a fascinating topic because it sits at the intersection of several fundamental rights, including free speech, privacy, private property and freedom of association. It also raises some remarkably strong emotions, considering its importance in the grand scheme of things.

Here are the essays

  1. How to end spam -- an outline of my current best plan to deal with the scourge.
  2. Top mistakes anti-spam fighters sometimes make.
  3. A summary of proposed solutions and countermeasures to Spam.
  4. The best solutions and countermeasures that I can endorse.
  5. A statement of Principles regarding the regulation of E-mail.
  6. Commentary on the Ad-Hoc UCE working group's FTC report
  7. Why these essays are here and why some have mistakenly called some of them "pro-spam."
  8. Just why Spam is so evil.
  9. Private Action and the 1st amendment and how we may have a moral duty even where the law does not compel us.
  10. Notes on the definition and how it relates to enforcement.
  11. Top 10 reasons regulating single E-mail is a poor idea.
  12. Why the "Smith Bill" (HR 1748) is a bad idea.
  13. Thoughts on why people argue UCE vs. UBE.
  14. Why "bulk from strangers" is the best definition.
  15. The history of the term spam on USENET. (non-political etymology)
  16. Refections on the 25th anniversary of the first E-mail spam.

Here are some essays on details of specific anti-spam solutions I have designed:

  1. My current favoured plan.
  2. Another favoured plan that is an alternative to having to put signatures on all mail.
  3. Best Practices for Challenge/Response Anti-Spam systems. I wrote one of the earliest C/R systems in 1997 and still use it. Now the idea is getting popular but not everybody is doing it very well.
  4. Is Challenge/Response Good? -- an essay on the controversy over C/R.
  5. Autoresponse Standards -- further suggestions on how all autoresponders can improve to stop responses to messages with forged headers.
  6. How the problem might be solved in the future with E-Stamps (Electronic Stamps) on E-mail.
  7. Details on Spam tagging as a long term solution.
  8. Notes on defining, detecting and prosecuting bulk.

Here are some other URLs of interest:

  1. a RealAudio transcript of a mock court on spam-law held at CFP '98. While it is annoying that it's only available as audio, it is definitely must-listening for those interested in the constitutional issues of spam-law. The judges include 3 Texas supreme court judges and a leading law professor, and the lawyers are leading experts in internet law.