Why SPAM is not the same as Junk Mail
Everything you didn't want to know about spam but were forced to find out anyways
A few weeks back, a little turd-munching troller stopped by my web site to try and stir up some trouble. Here is what it said:
I would like to ask you a question. Unsolicited mail through
the U.S. Postal Service has been a way of doing business for millions
of companies. When faxes came out it happened there too. Then came
Web Pages. I'm sure you have utilized one of these mediums to market
your services in the past. Now, major corporations, including Wall
Street brokerage houses are looking at doing exactly what I have
started doing by individually marketing to people via there e-mail
addresses. Isn't this just another example of free enterprise at work ?
Isn't the utilization of all marketing mediums what drives a free market
I'm not asking you this to upset you. You are obviously
intelligent and I REALLY want to know what you think.
Forrest, would that be as in "Forrest Gump"? No, because even Forrest Gump wasn't that stupid. Then again, "Forrest Gump" was a movie, and now I'm dealing with a real-life 'tard with internet access.
This got me to thinking. Then I wiped my ass and wrote this document. I figured a good time to contemplate this sort of crap was while actually producing an actual turd, instead of the email equivalent of crap.
Spam is not the same as junk mail, nor is it the same as advertising via traditional channels. There are several reasons why. Spammers have not figured this out yet, and even after reading it, they still won't have a clue. I'll place this in an ordered list format, with descriptions.
- Spam is not subsidizing anything.
Yes, thousands of businesses send junk mail each year via the US Postal Service. Of this junk mail, I return 99% of it 'Return to Sender" or else I throw it in the recycle bin after being destroyed. For millions of others, junk mail is immediately tossed in the trash, adding to the constantly growing problem of our overflowing landfills. But I digress.
When businesses send this junk mail in massive bulk via US Postal Service, they are PAYING the US Post Office to deliver it. It is because of these activities that our postage rates are as low as they are. So, in a sense, junk mail is helping to keep our postage costs down. With spam, some asshole is sending you an unsolicited commercial email DIRECTLY to your account, more or less. With spammer-groups such as CyberPromo, the amount of data spewed from their machines on a daily basis is MASSIVE, something to the order of millions of individual emails at an average of 2K each. That is a lot of data. But who pays for this?
Who pays for the transmission of this junk email? Why, you do, the internet end user, the little client dialing into the local ISP. Who else pays for it? The ISP's who are billed for data transmission amounts. Who else? The people who pay hourly rates for downloading emails they don't want. Who else? People who pay for data tranmissions to and from the internet.
- Junk mailers tend to honor remove requests
I am very successful removing my name from junk mail lists, mainly since I know how to be even more annoying than they are. Also, my nature is rather harsh, abrasive, agressive and extreme in these issues. Basically, they think I'm nuts and don't want to have anything to do with me, which is fine since I never requested this garbage. In simpler terms, when I ask for removal, I get removed from the list.
With spammers, for the most part, they claim to have removal functions, but they never honor the remove request, which is why you keep getting spam from the same domains over and over again. When you get new spam from new domains, they typically sold the list to another spammer group. This is usually the only way a spammer makes any money is through the sale and re-sale of such lists. I can't see how the spammer can do anything other than break even though. One would assume that if the spammer is going to claim to have a remove request feature, you would assume they would honor remove requests.
- Spam is not exempt from the law.
Why is it that spammers feel that their money making pyramids and multi-level marketing is not subject to prosecution to the same laws that make it illegal to US Postal mail it? On the one hand, they aren't guilty of mail fraud for the transmission of the information, but since the vast majority of their scams involve the US Postal Service in order to get our money, that constitutes postal fraud. It also shows intent to defraud and using the US Postal Service as the mechanism to transport the money from the victim to the scammer.
- Spam wastes time.
The same argument can be made for junk mail, as it wastes time too. For the majority of us, we don't go and use raw POP3 commands to look at and purge unwanted email. I will admit I don't do this only because I don't know those commands yet, and I have better things to do with my time. I'm not saying I don't want to learn those commands because I want to learn them. So, while I wait for 50 spams to download, with message #49 being the one I really need to get, I am forced to sit and endure while all this spam is downloaded to my hard drive, taking up valuable space that I could use for other things. At least with US Postal mail, I can go to the mailbox, and on the way back to the door, I can sort the email, plus when I get inside, I can throw out all the mail to me that I don't want to deal with. During such periods of time when I'm checking the mail box, I'm usually waiting for all my email to download.
- I won't buy from you if you send me junk mail, so why should I make exceptions for spam?
As you know, I hate junk mail and spam. Sure, I get mailings from certain companies, but these are companies I actually want some junk from, mainly because I have bought from their STORE in the past and like to be aware of any sales. Other companies, including who I have my VISA card through, routinely send me junk, which is sent back to the company. I even requested that VISA stop sending me their damn advertisements, which only helped for about 6 months. If you send me junk mail, I boycot your company. This is a simple, clear and completely black and white issue. The same goes for spam, as I don't want to deal with a company that feels it must resort to such unethical tactics.
- The logic of a 2-year old doesn't mean that it is OK to do this sort of thing.
The above mentioned spammer is basically saying "everyone else does it, so it must be OK". Well, if everyone else jumped off the bridge, are you going to? Better yet, don't let me stop you, hell, I'll even give you a push! Just because thousands of others are resorting to this unwelcome tactic in no way makes it right. I've seen the illegitimate emails from such brokerage houses, and those spams violate ethics codes and other laws in regards to investments. I found this out by talking to a lawyer. This is not a tool for free enterprise when it is used in such illegal manners. If they were doing this advertising in accordance to laws, then that would be an entirely different story. The spammers never stop to think about how the rest of the internet as a community scorns this activity.
- Magazine advertisements and spam are not the same thing.
I open the many magazines I am subscribed to, and in all of them, I find a great deal of advertisements. Fortunately, I get most of my magazines for free since I am an industry professional in both audio and data communications. While the advertisements are usually of no interest to me, when I am looking to purchase a specific item, I do use those ads to help me get some ideas as far as price. These ads are for real products or services and are paid for by the company placing the ad. With spam, as so many of you have noticed, the ads are for intangibles or for fraud. Spam does not try and place ads appropriate to what they think their customer base is, they just send out a few thousand or million spams and see what happens.
For example, let's say I'm reading through EQ magazine, which is dedicated to professional audio. The ads in that magazine are for audio equipment, or for mail order houses. There is a strong tie-in with the magazine and the ads. If I'm going through MacWeek, I see tons of ads for Macintosh computers, parts, services and the like. What I'm saying here is that the ads are in line with the content of the magazine. Again, the people who want the ad pay for the ad to be placed in the magazine.
When I get spam, it is never something I am interested in. Money making pyramids/multi-level marketing ads, chain letters, porn, non-FDA approved drugs, snake oil, cure-alls, blatant lies, postal fraud scams... the list is almost endless. These are not legitimate products or services. The worse part is that indirectly, I am paying for this unwanted garbage to end up in my email box. I am fortunate that I have fixed rate service through my local internet access provider, but I certainly don't want my money to go to downloading spam.
- Spam is not the same as radio and television advertising.
Radio and television are mass-marketplaces. In that sense, so are magazines. We'll focus on TV and radio, but just keep magazines in mind in regards to the mass-media issue. Radio and television send out these PAID broadcasts to thousands or millions of recievers on a daily basis. The goal is to try and reach some percentage of the population who may be interesested in the product or service. In other cases, some are public service announcements to raise awareness. The company who wants the ad aired is paying the station or stations to have it aired. In the case of national broadcasting, certain companies may sponsor a show, or wish to advertise in certain shows. This is a widely used practice, and part of the reason why some TV shows are killed off. Advertisers want shows that have good ratings, which means a better value for their advertising dollar. This ratings issue is the whole purpose for Neilsen ratings, since those ratings equate to which shows are the best for advertising. Of course, special events like the SuperBowl garner very expensive advertising slots due to their very high profile nature.
With TV and radio, there is some market research going on. Market research is an imperfect science, but at least there is a logic to it. During soap operas and other daytime TV, there are lots of ads for home products, like cleaners, soaps, towels, sheets, kitchenware and so on. Of course, there are also a lot of feminine care products on, as advertisers are still under the assumption that a large majority of these stay at home people are women. During sporting events, there are lots of beer ads, and those wonderful ads for athlete's foot and jock itch cures, assuming that guys want to drink beer and scratch their itchy balls while their bare feet are propped up on the coffee table. During cartoons and other children's programming, there are ads for toys and games and amusement parks. The logic isn't perfect, but as a general rule, such advertising is reaching the intended marketplace.
Spam does not use market research. Spammers send out hundreds, thousands or millions of emails from lists they have somehow acquired. Lists are aquired by fetching headers from usenet postings, or by scanning the body of usenet postings looking for any string with an "@" symbol in it. To show the flaw in this logic, this one idiot sent me a spam assuming I wanted to buy golf balls. I don't want to name names, but the initials are Dana Jones. I have long since trashed my original post, but I was responding to some idiot who was saying people who like video golf are losers. I said I hate real golf, but like the occasional video game of golf. And because of that post, this Dana Jones freak assumes I want to buy golf balls. Mr. Jones then systematically spams people who responded to the thread, then anyone who had an active post in the usenet group, and then thanks to the immature rantings and cross-postings that exist in the "rec.games.video.X" groups, he began spamming just about every usenet posting gamer. Another interesting way spammers are now getting lists are by scanning HTML documents for email addresses. There is no logic to how these 'bots are getting the addresses, they simply scan usenet posts or web pages and pull in anything that appears to be an email address. This is not market research.
Again, who pays for the spam? The spammer is only paying for the spam should they be sending it via a hourly timed account. For the most part, it is the ISP's and other network service providers who are paying for these spams. These costs far outweigh what the spammer paid or invested in their latest scam. And unlike a radio or TV ad where I can change the channel, I must endure through the download and waste of disk space such spams take up. This also means that spam takes away from by ability to do something else, like store a file I need. Spam also helps, over time, fragment up my hard drive, causing more time spent on disk maintenance and repair. It also means I have to take the extra time to add them to the Deadbeats's Hall of Lame.
- Billboards and spam are not the same thing
I have no idea behind the logic of billboard ads. First, I see a lot of them for radio, which would be interesting IF I listened to the radio. I can see this logic, since just about everyone has a radio in their car. This is especially handy for out of towners looking for something other than static when they travel. I just listen to CD's or my MiniDisc in my car, so I could care less about the radio. I also see lots of ads for beer, which I find odd since drinking and driving is illegal. Since I don't drink, these ads don't target me. There are also the shrinking number of cigarette billboards, which don't target me since I don't smoke. On the whole, I ignore billboards, unless I'm hungry and am looking for some place to eat. I do a lot of long distance driving so this is an important item. Since my commute is generally fixed, I do know where most of the restaurants are along my journey, making the billboards a rather moot point. Since I have to go to Silicon Valley quite frequently, it's always interesting seeng the new technology and web advertising, as if we are all using a laptop with a cellular connection to cruise the web while we drive. Still, the people placing the ad are paying for these roadside commercials.
While billboards are passive advertising, spam is quite active. While I can NOT look at the billboard, I have to look at the spam, or at least the title of it anyways, plus endure the download. With a billboard, I can keep driving and there is no slowdown, even if I want to look at the ad or not. With spam, I have to take pause to deal with it, if even for the time it takes to download it, or even see the title of the message.
How many billboards have you seen for multi-level marketing? None? That's what I thought.
- Informercials are more entertaining than spam.
Of course, I hate those infomercials, especially those "Amazing Discoveries" ones. Hey, I'm always into science programs, and "amazing discoveries" sounds like it would be something cool, but it's never something I'm interested in. When I see "amazing discoveries", I would expect to see something about nature, or some new invention or technology, not some dweeb with a badly faked accent pitching garbage. I will say this in support of infomercials: it is a real product. I won't comment on the couple of real estate infomercials going around because I feel there is something not completely legitimate about those. Also, those internet infomercials are typically run by and attended by internet retards, and the only ones who benefit are the ones doing the infomercial/seminars. Since I don't like infomercials, I can simply change the channel and be done with it.
With spam, the product is usually illegal. The people who are showing the infomercial are paying for it it be broadcast. The TV stations are covering their own interests by basically saying "we want the money" even though "the following program may not reflect the views and opinions of the management of this station". There is little to no market research involved in infomercials, but at least it it something real(for the most part, see above). This all comes back to who is paying for the spam. Indirectly: YOU are.
I find nothing entertaining about downloading a spam, reading the illegal content, and then getting annoyed at the time wasted and drive space take up. I can't change the channel to avoid the spam, it simply must be dealt with.
- But why is mass media broadcasting different than an internet spam?
I'm learning a LOT about video, although out of necessity and not purely by choice. Being the nerd that I am, technology fascinates me. Being an audio engineer, musician, computer guru and data communications guy, these are all technology driven industries, pushed forwards by the demands of customers always wanting better. My audio work typically ties in with video these days, which is why I'm learning video.
Regardless if it is radio or TV, you have to consider that there are many different ways to broadcast this information. Eventually, these hit transmitter antennae that somehow get the signal out there to be picked up by your recieving unit. There are satelite transmissions, microwave, RF, and many others. Once the signal is presented to the actual transmitter, the transmitter sends it out in all directions, all at once. One single transmission can reach across the country, potentially hitting 230 million people. There are other ways to transport such data, but these tend to be private data circuits, so we won't go into those.
Spam is not even close to this. In comparison, radio and television broadcasts have the ability to reach an infinite amount of people at once. There is also an infinite amount of "bandwidth" available. Since stations are assigned frequencies via FCC licenses, there are few to no collisions. The messages only need to be sent out once.
Spammers see lots of similarities. They would be right though, in the fact that the message only needs to be sent once. The similarities end there. There is no such thing as infinite bandwidth on the internet. It is true that the major circuit providers are trying to maintain the impression that there is infinite bandwidth on the internet by increasing the number of T3 backbones. This massive upgrade is being forced by both the marketing of the internet as a service and the internet newbies who have no idea what is going on but it certainly isn't fast enough for them. Even grandma is getting on the internet. Bandwidth is certainly not fixed but it is finite, it fluctuates widely, from new circuits being added, to data actually being sent between systems. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of variables that prevent us saying how much bandwidth is actually available at any point in time.
When such spams are sent out, the data is sent out in packets to literally thousands of different systems, each email taking a slightly different path, stealing little tiny bits of bandwidth all over the place. This little 1K "I'm a loser, send me money" spam could possibly take up 10MB when all of the intended recipients have this garbage stored in their inbox.
When we compound this with the spam posted to usenet, the numbers increase dramatically, especially since other news servers poll other news servers to get the latest and newest postings. This automation adds a lot of data to an already clogging internetwork of systems, as well as wasting gigabytes a day in garbage nobody wants to deal with. In addition, the people who are paying for the transmission and reciept of data are being charged for the moving of this data. Bits are bits and dollars are dollars, doesn't matter if it is incoming or outgoing.
- Cable TV and spam are not related
So then there's the spammer argument that people with cable are paying for TV, so that's about the same as you paying for internet access. Since you are paying for TV, you're also paying for those commercials. This is where there is the flaw in their logic. By having cable, I am subscribing to a SERVICE, and with the pay channels available, I can choose additional services I would like, at an additional cost. By paying NS.Net(Sacramento, California ISP) my $25 a month for unlimited access, I am SUBSCRIBING to their service, and along with that service comes POP3 mail.
The spammer will say that commercials are part of what happens when you pay for cable, so therefore, when you pay for internet access, you are paying for spam. See, I am paying for spam. I sure as hell don't want to pay for spam, so read the above in regards to television commercials. To compare, when has a TV commercial wasted space on my hard drive? When has a television commercial wasted time traveling down my phone line and through my modem, or my ISDN Terminal Adaptor? Never.
Those who want the TV commerials aired pay for that service. These costs are not past on to the consumer or the cable subscriber. When a spammer sends his garbage, the people who recieve it are indirectly paying for that garbage. Understanding how the system works is key to stopping spam.
- What is "individual marketing" when you send spam to thousands?
This goes back to the little troller mentioned at the top of this document. He claims that now Wall Street brokerages are now doing such "individual marketing". I think what he's trying to say is that he's not the only mass-spamming asshole out there. Remember, two wrongs don't make a right, but three rights make a left turn. In other words: this is the wrong direction to be going in. Of course, there is no proof to back up his claim. Again, just because others are doing it, that doesn't make it an OK thing to do.
What I want to know is how does a spammer claim such individual marketing when the spammer is blindly sending spams to thousands of people, with no pre-qualifications or any other attempt to see if these people give a rat's ass about this garbage? This sort of thing is a waste of time and money, unfortunately the money wasted is that of the recipient.
- Commercial Email is taking off, and so is the anti-spam movement
This just goes to show how clueless the spammers really are. They don't seem to be aware of the counter-movement to stop the spam. Thanks to domains such as CyberPromo who don't seem to care about complaints and take excessive measures to make sure that flames don't make their way back to the spammer. By doing this, it makes things look more appealing to those who want to spam. These spammers need to know the negative repercussions of spamming as it will greatly reduce the amount of spams.
Apparently spammers and spammer-sites have chosen to ignore all the anti-spam sites that have sprung up recently. CyberPromo is aware of my site, as indicated by Mr. Gump who trolled my Anti-Spam guestbook. If he forged or falsified the address, I can not tell due to how the CGI handles things, but since it claimed a CyberPromo domain, I will hold CyberPromo as being fully aware of my policies.
- The CyberPromo double standard
Last October when CyberPromo was spamming me a lot, I was sending them back lots of replies containing profanities. Personally, I don't find such language as offensive or "dirty", while at the same time, I find spam to be offensive and dirty. Apparently, CyberPromo considers profanity to be offensive. I wish I could find this automated response so I could share it with you. They don't even stop to consider MY value system, which considers spam to be offensive. So, this is what I have to say to CyberPromo: screw'em. Such swear words are useful parts of language. Which one conveys a better message of anger:
Both convey the same message, although one is clearly more effective. Sure, one is more politically correct, but I find most people who are politically correct need to be dropped off of high buildings like lemmings leaping off of cliffs.
- Consume fecal material and then cease to exist
- Eat shit and die
My value system will hold up in a court of law as long as I am consistent. CyberPromo is legally bound to respect my value system and needs to stay out of my email accounts.
If you spam me, the feces will hit the rotary oscillator.
- Spam is not covered by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the excercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Goverment for redress of grievances.
Freedom of speech means that you have the right to say or write or print whatever the hell you want. Seeing as how electronic means of communication had not been invented at the writing of this little gem of law, our founding fathers had no idea this would be used to include such technology. Still, we have to consider what is freedom of speech and expression. This is not an easy issue for anyone, as the United States goverment can't even put a definition on pornography, probably because they are too busy harrassing schools as to which books our children can or can't read. But I'm not hear to discuss censorship.
Freedom of speech and expression does NOT extend to my fax machine, my mail box or my my email address. Freedom of speech and expression allows someone to cover themself with feces and yell "Blurp, blurp" while slapping themself on the ass with a whip. This is provided that this person is not endangering others. I would imagine this is a favorite activity of spammers. Freedom of the press allows newspapers and magazines to print what they like. Freedom of speech allows people like Howard Stern to have a medium to air his unique brand of entertainment. Just for the record, I'm not a Howard Stern fan, but I don't see what he's doing to be any more disgusting that the 11 O'clock news.
So why does freedom of speech not pertain to spam? Simple. Freedom of speech means I also have the freedom to NOT have to deal with this garbage. So, if the spammer is out their wallowing in their filth and screaming "Me go plop plop, me go plop plop" while playing pogs in the nude, and I happen to walk by, I can ignore them and not have to deal with it. Should the spammer send me spam, that must be dealt with on many levels. First, it has to travel through many networks before it gets to me, possibly costing some ISP's some money for data not destined for their network. Then, it gets to my ISP and finally to my POP mailbox. Since I pay for the internet service, I am paying to download this garbage to my computer, taking up hard drive space. Freedom of speech is violated because the message has been imposed upon me against my will and without my consent.
So what about those magazines I get? I certainly can't agree with every single article. For example, the May 12, 1997(Volume 11 Number 19) issue of MacWeek features an article with lots of errors, some lies, and a lot of mis-information. This article is in regards to the new 56K analog technologies, which MacWeek has chosen to not do any research or make an attempt to understand this technology. I don't want to read articles that are blatantly erroneous. Is this spam? No. Why? Well, I subscribe to this magazine, and as a whole, I want the magazine. Sure, this article is sort of imposed upon me, but it is part of a larger collection for a service I am paying for. Yes, I will complain about the article.
Freedom of speech does not protect those who are distributing illegal information, such as those lovely multi-level marketing scams. Freedom of speech is not protected when it is sent to those who express that they do not want such material. Freedom of speech ends where my right to not want to deal with it begins. So, if the spammer is outside yelling at my house "Me make a big poopie", it can do that until I decide I don't want it doing that anymore. It is at this time where the spammer crosses that line between free speech and disturbing the peace.
Unlike TV, radio or magazines where I can pick and choose what I want to deal with by picking the channel or article I choose to pay attention to, spam has to be dealt with because in the end, I am paying for it. Also, the whole purpose of this section is to help reinforce how much I hate spam. I would assume that it is quite obvious that I am against spam. Because of such public declaration, spam to any of my accounts is now a violation of the first amendment. Since I have control over mass media, I must have a mechanism to control what is and isn't allowable in my email box. Again, by stating I don't want this sort of material emailed to me, there are court cases will uphold my views against spam. These cases are minor cases involving disturbing the peace and invasion of privacy, but the same general rules still apply.
If you are one of the dilweeds who sent me unsolicited email or are someone thinking about it, drop dead.
Also, if you've got a complaint about my anti-spam feelings or want to scold me for being justifiably sick of spam, I have the following words of wisdom for you:
BLOW IT OUT YOUR ASS!
Anyone else, I'd like to hear from you. Click below and drop me a line.
Anti-Spam Site administrator