Spam Control Considered Harmful

Barry Shein bzs at
Tue Oct 28 18:05:02 UTC 1997

This sounds nice and principled but who is going to pay the bill for
the spam? It's non-trivial.

Perhaps someone can make a business selling spam-able accounts. Maybe
you're willing to go into that business? Tell us how it works out, let
the market decide.

At any rate, at the heart of this one is "follow the money", spammers
will gleefully send *millions* of messages per day, each.

And if they were successful in doing that they'd no doubt send more
(that is, it might even become an effective advertising channel, why
not, it's just about free so return on investment can be tiny and
appear quite successful.)

To handle that deluge requires hardware and bandwidth which means
money, expanded without any control or check (since the spammers
aren't paying why shouldn't they double their requirements on you?
Doesn't cost them double, doesn't cost them much anything.)

No one is paying for that at this point, and the business sense is
that subscribers aren't interested in paying say, double what they pay
now for spam-able accounts.

In fact the subscribers, in my non-trivial experience, are most
vociferous about demanding that spam be blocked, tend to hold the ISP
responsible (since no one else is available to blame), and consider
blocking spam a valuable service (as I said if you believe otherwise
then perhaps you can be the next AOL, go for it.)

Anyhow, I say that your sentiment amounts to principle at someone
else's expense.

Spammers will have "rights" when they pay their way.

Right now they're just the graffitti vandals of the net, and no they
can't paint their message on my store just because maybe one of my
customers likes graffitti art.

But if you think otherwise by all means go for it and start your

On October 28, 1997 at 12:14 Daniel.Karrenberg at (Daniel Karrenberg) wrote:
 > I am worried about the tools we are developing and deploying to control
 > spam. 
 > Some of them are esentially centralsied methods of controlling Internet
 > content.  Paul's anti-spam feed for instance prevents users of some
 > providers from seeing spam.  The user has no choice; they cannot opt to
 > receive spam other than by switching to another provider.  Even worse:
 > they may not even be aware that they are "missing" some content. 
 > Combatting spam is considered a Good Thing(TM) by almost everybody here,
 > including myself.  However the same technology could just as easily be
 > used to do Bad Things(TM).  Even worse: if it works it demonstrates that
 > *centralised control* of the content of Internet services like e-mail is
 > *feasible*.  This will give some people ideas we may not like, and
 > sometime in the future we may ask ourselves why we have done this.  The
 > end does not always justify the means.  I hope that methods like the
 > anti-spam feed will not be taken up widely.  Please consider the
 > consequences before you use them. 
 > I stress that I do not question the morality or good intentions of those
 > involved.  I am just concerned about the almost ubiquitous and
 > apparently unreflected zeal that spam seems to evoke and the danger of
 > it making us accept methods we would otherwise despise.  I would prefer
 > to see more work in technology that is less centralised and gives the
 > users a choice of the content they wish to see.  Yes this may be harder
 > to do, but the consequences of deploying the easier methods may be just
 > too severe. 
 > Waehret den Anfaengen (beware of the beginnings)
 > Daniel
 > PS: I hope this is more coherent than my contribution at the meeting
 > yesterday when my brain failed due to jet-lag while my mouth was still
 > working perfectly ;-). 

More information about the NANOG mailing list