Thursday, July 31, 2003

Why We Must End Spam

There is a tremendous amount of discussion about "spam email" going on right now in the press. Can we eliminate spam email? Should we eliminate spam? How best to eliminate spam - Should we use black lists, white lists, bayesian filtering, legislation? Is spam free speech? Do large companies have a right to send spam? The discussion seems nearly endless.

We each experience spam individually, but in all the articles I've read I have never seen anyone publish an actual example of the effects of spam. So... here is what a typical spammed inbox in America looks like today:

This image shows the inbox for a small business that my wife and I own. Spam, as you can see, overflows from this inbox. The highlighted entry in the list shown above is a single peice of legitimate email surrounded by a sea of spam. The spam arrives in a flood throughout the day, so it would also be easy to produce image after image like this where there is nothing but spam in the image. The ratio of spam to legitimate email is easily hundreds-to-1. Some of the subject lines for spam can be quite graphic, for example the one immediately following the legitimate piece of mail shown above. The subject line "Advertise to 35.2 million people = $129" that you can see above succintly explains the source of the problem.

We can debate spam all we want. However, the image above shows the reality of spam for a typical person or small business in America. It is out of control. When readers and potential business partners look up the email address for our company, they expect to be able to send email and get a response. The reality is that the legitimate messages can be lost in the sea of spam. When spam gets this bad, email becomes completely useless.

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