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Two Camps in Defining and Fighting Spam

Two Camps in Defining and Fighting Spam

In engaging in the debate on junk E-mail, I've been surprised at the strong polarization between camps that want to ban "UCE" (unsolicited commercial E-mail) and "UBE" Unsolicited Bulk E-mail.

It's not because of a dislike of commerce, which would be the first thought. I think instead the answer comes to this.

All spam victims look at their mailbox, and see it full of unwanted mail.

In one camp, however, they ask, "how can I stop unwanted mail?" Most of the unwanted mail is unsolicited ads, and while other people are getting these, and that's annoying, my main goal is to free my mailbox from them. The camp wants to stop unsolicited ads.

The other camp -- the one I'm advocating -- looks at the ads and says, "why is E-mail being abused this way?" What are the causes for this. What are the things that are different about the net and E-mail that there is so much of this stuff? The answer to that question is the ability to send vast volumes of mail for a very cheap price, and so the solution is to stop the misuse of bulk mail.

But there is a stronger difference. People in the first camp, primarily concerned with keeping their own mailboxes free of intrusion, feel little concern for the fallout for others of their efforts to clean up their mailboxes. If the regulations they push interfere with other people's mail, so be it -- nobody has the right, they feel, to stop laws which protect a person's private mailbox.

My camp however is disturbed by the idea that we might want outsiders to regulate a concept like "unwanted mail." Whether people think UCE is free speech or not, the idea that laws or rules could regulate unwanted mail is a scary one, and definitely a free speech issue.

As you might guess, I think if the system is to act, it should be to protect the system, and not to interfere with personal mail or make judgements about what is wanted and unwanted mail on a per-message basis.

Any fight against unwanted mail is a path to censorship, because all mail, once it sits in your mailbox, is the same from a technical standpoint. All mail uses your resources. The unwanted mail does it in a way you don't like, the wanted mail in a way you do.

My camp says that bulk mail is not an attack on any individual mailbox, but on the system itself. It can be stopped as that, without a question of the contents or appeal of any given message.