spam, was Horrible Service Agreements

John R Levine johnl at
Tue Dec 2 04:57:12 UTC 1997

> That's one big mistake. Before anybody will easily send you e-mail
> he has to get your address from somewhere and determine somehow that
> the person is interested in hearing from you.  That process can just
> as well include obtaining personal or community authorization.

My address is printed in about two million copies of books that I've written
because I want my readers, most of whom are not technically sophisticated, to
write to me. That's an extreme case, but lots of people put their e-mail
addresses on their business cards and in their newspaper ads because they
view e-mail as a way to contact people, not as a way to throw up walls. Much
though we wish it were otherwise, spammers can read as well as anyone else
and can use those addresses the same as legitimate users.  If you put up
technical blocks against spammers, you also put up blocks against lots and
lots of legitimate e-mail users. 

> The lack of freedom of press for those who don't own the press also
> was a social problem.  As well as lack of clean water.
> Are you're going to tell that political methods solved those problems?
> To solve them the societies needed the technology first.

They needed both.  (I can tell you a fair amount about clean water, being a
municipal water commissioner*.) But that doesn't have much to do with spam
other than that there are economic externalities in spamming that technical
approaches are unlikely to change anytime soon. 

John Levine, johnl at, Primary Perpetrator of "The Internet for Dummies",
Information Superhighwayman wanna-be,, Sewer Commissioner
Finger for PGP key, f'print = 3A 5B D0 3F D9 A0 6A A4  2D AC 1E 9E A6 36 A3 47 

* - Yes, my signature says Sewer Commissioner.  It's a small town, I do both. 

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