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PennDrago

Spam? A violation of our rights?

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Force means physical compulsion.....
That is certainly the standard meaning of force, so I'm glad that you aren't redefining the word in a special way. I am still puzzled over your statement in post #14 that "Fraud is an indirect form of force", in light of other parts of your reply:
We don't have to reduce every violation of rights to an instance of active use of direct, brute force in order to justify it as a violation

....

This is often all summed up under the phrase "initiating force or fraud"

which I agree with. I don't know how to reconcile the two positions, except via the word "indirect". Even then, you would be saying that fraud is a form of physical compulsion, somehow distinct from "direct force", and I don't see how the concept of compulsion is applicable to fraud. If the statement "Fraud is an indirect form of force" is simply a mistake, then I don't think there is any remaining issue here.

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A "do not email" list would not work against spam because spammers would simply use it as a source of confirmed targets.
In the context of discussing what actions the government should take (e.g. making "spam" illegal), you seem to be ceding the point that spammers are not law-abiders, so that there is no reason to outlaw spam or take any government action against spammers since as we know, anti-spam laws do not block spammers.
With people trying to keep their addresses private to avoid spam, the last thing to do is publish your address on a list.
That is not my proposal. The technical details are not important (nor is there only one solution), but a list of do not spam addresses does not need to be plainly readable and thus exploitable.
Spam is so widely despised and unwanted that opposition to receiving it ought to be presumed as part of your legal rights without millions of email users each having to say anything else.
I agree with this, but millions of email users can each say something when the acquire internet access. You have some explicit agreement with an ISP, and you may discover if you read the fineprint that they either have a default policy of blocking spam or of allowing spam. If it is not the former, you should change your ISP. Some ISPs offer fairly absolute spam protection, by requiring all email being sent to the customer to be from a verified and accepted source. I manage my spam problems pretty well via Spamassassin, but if that were not possible I would certainly switch my email to such a provider. That approach stops law-abiding spammers and law-breaking spammers alike, and not just the law-abiding spammers.

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In the context of discussing what actions the government should take (e.g. making "spam" illegal), you seem to be ceding the point that spammers are not law-abiders, so that there is no reason to outlaw spam or take any government action against spammers since as we know, anti-spam laws do not block spammers.That is not my proposal. The technical details are not important (nor is there only one solution), but a list of do not spam addresses  does not need to be plainly readable and thus exploitable.I agree with this, but millions of email users can each say something when the acquire internet access. You have some explicit agreement with an ISP, and you may discover if you read the fineprint that they either have a default policy of blocking spam or of allowing spam. If it is not the former, you should change your ISP. Some ISPs offer fairly absolute spam protection, by requiring all email being sent to the customer to be from a verified and accepted source. I manage my spam problems pretty well via Spamassassin, but if that were not possible I would certainly switch my email to such a provider. That approach stops law-abiding spammers and law-breaking spammers alike, and not just the law-abiding spammers.

If Mr. Jones rents an apartment in a lawless environment, he may contract with a landlord for rental space. He may or may not choose to rent from an owner who offers a "No Burglary Allowed" policy.

The internet is largely unregulated (and in most instances it should remain that way). It is somewhat of a lawless environment when it comes to spam. And I take it that the previous poster would say that just as Mr. Jones should rent from a "No Burglary Allowed" owner, someone obtaining internet should get it from a "No Spam" ISP.

Burglary causes loss of things owned for the victim. Spam causes loss of time and money for the recipient. It shouldn't be a question of whether or not someone chooses someone with a "No Spam" policy. Spam should simply be illegal because it is a great waster of valuable time and money of those who have to deal with the receipt of such messages.

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Everyone complains about spam, but I honestly don't think I get any. I mean, I get stuff I would rather not get, but it's all from websites where I signed up for something, so I knew the consequences when I did it. But I really don't get any of these "you've won a dream vacation" emails that everyone else seems to complain about.

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ewv: A "do not email" list would not work against spam because spammers would simply use it as a source of confirmed targets.
DavidOdden: In the context of discussing what actions the government should take (e.g. making "spam" illegal), you seem to be ceding the point that spammers are not law-abiders, so that there is no reason to outlaw spam or take any government action against spammers since as we know, anti-spam laws do not block spammers.

On the contrary, I have said several times that spamming should be outlawed. As a close analogy, publicizing a list of where people hide their valuables in their homes -- for the purpose of announcing that theft from those locations would be illegal -- would be a poor approach to fighting crime, both because of the increased vulnerability it would cause and the improper burden placed on potential victims to have to list everything they wanted protected under the law. Opposing the use of such a list to protect one's valuables from criminals would not be "ceding the point that burglars are not law-abiders, so that there is no reason to outlaw burglary or take any government action against burglars since as we know, anti-burglary laws do not block burglars."

The proper response to bad anti-crime laws making people more vulnerable to crime is better laws, not futile resignation to criminals and not acquiescence to bad laws causing more harm. There will always be criminals defying the law; defense against that is a combination of good laws that enable catching them and putting them away, and common sense private actions such as burglar alarms, locking your doors and not telling people where your valuables are when it is none of their business. The latter includes not unnecessarily publicizing personal information, including your email addresses.

Part of the problem today is the lack of laws banning spam -- thanks to the "burglar lobby" constantly undermining all attempts to ban and criminalize spamming. The "Can Spam" act does not outlaw spam.

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ewv: With people trying to keep their addresses private to avoid spam, the last thing to do is publish your address on a list.
DavidOdden: That is not my proposal. The technical details are not important (nor is there only one solution), but a list of do not spam addresses does not need to be plainly readable and thus exploitable.

You had written:

Establishing and maintaining such lists is not the function of government. Such a list should be private, and could be tailored to the specific annoyance that you want to block.

Maintaining such a list privately instead of by the government would not solve the problems inherently caused by such lists. Naive requests -- playing into the hands of the DMA spam lobby -- that would have mandated a do-not-spam list under the Can Spam Act were diverted instead into a study of the strategy, sponsored by the FTC. The resulting highly competent technical report, "National Do Not Email Registry, A Report to Congress, FTC, June 2004, concluded that it would not be technically feasible to implement such a list in a way that could not be compromised. (See especially section IV beginning on p. 13.)

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ewv: Spam is so widely despised and unwanted that opposition to receiving it ought to be presumed as part of your legal rights without millions of email users each having to say anything else.
DavidOdden: I agree with this, but millions of email users can each say something when the acquire internet access. You have some explicit agreement with an ISP, and you may discover if you read the fineprint that they either have a default policy of blocking spam or of allowing spam. If it is not the former, you should change your ISP. Some ISPs offer fairly absolute spam protection, by requiring all email being sent to the customer to be from a verified and accepted source. I manage my spam problems pretty well via Spamassassin, but if that were not possible I would certainly switch my email to such a provider. That approach stops law-abiding spammers and law-breaking spammers alike, and not just the law-abiding spammers.

There should be no such thing as "law abiding spamming". But as a practical matter today there is no comprehensive technical solution either.

Spam Assassin is one of the better anti-spam filters but all such filters suffer from the problem of false positives. Spammers are constantly developing ways to get around the latest technology, including the relatively recent Bayesian filters. As the filters are tuned to block more spam they inevitably block some legitimate mail. The result is that you have to periodically scan through all the spam diverted by the filter in order to check for legitimate communications. This in itself can lead to significant delays in getting valuable communications, even if you use a white list to try to anticipate known valid senders. And some people, especially in business, have more of a need to receive email from strangers who can not be white-listed in advance. Many computer users are also not able to contend effectively with such technical mechanisms at all, nor should the burden be tolerated even if they have the potential to understand it.

Using an ISP that tries to block all spam automatically can lead to serious loss through false positives, which is why more technically adept computer users who can set up their own spam blockers tend to avoid such systems, while others suffer in complete frustration. Email authentication systems provided by some ISPs are also extremely cumbersome, leading to lost mail and frustration by legitimate senders who give up in the face of the inevitable bounces and confirmation queries.

(There are new authentication systems under development by Microsoft and others for new email transport engineering protocols that would allow for better tracking of the actual source of email [see the FTC report cited in the post above]. That will ultimately improve catching spammers, but is a different approach than putting an explicit burden on each individual recipient or sender of legitimate email, while leaving the spammers alone.)

Some individuals, by reason of particular circumstances of how they use email or of their background knowledge and ability, can deal with the spam problem more effectively than others -- and should in self defense -- but that does not address the underlying fundamental problem. The expense required to research, develop and maintain technical defenses against spamming, even when relatively successful, is an unwarranted burden. This should not be allowed to continue as a kind of "technology game" in which spammers are permitted to make up the rules as they go along, immune from criminal prosecution while putting a burden on others who don't want to "play". That some of us are currently able to effectively use technology to block computer crimes to a large extent does not negate the fact that morally they are crimes and should be fully recognized as such under the law. Technology can be used to fight crime but it is a not a substitute for a legal system in defense of civilization against anarchy.

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DavidOdden: I am still puzzled over your statement in post #14 that "Fraud is an indirect form of force", in light of other parts of your reply:
ewv: Force means physical compulsion. Fraud is not an actual use of physical compulsion as is, for example, a burglary or a hold-up, but it does generally attempt to physically appropriate or retain someone else's property...  We don't have to reduce every violation of rights to an instance of active use of direct, brute force in order to justify it as a violation ... This is often all summed up under the phrase "initiating force or fraud"
DavidOdden: which I agree with. I don't know how to reconcile the two positions, except via the word "indirect". Even then, you would be saying that fraud is a form of physical compulsion, somehow distinct from "direct force", and I don't see how the concept of compulsion is applicable to fraud. If the statement "Fraud is an indirect form of force" is simply a mistake, then I don't think there is any remaining issue here.

Physically appropriating someone else's property does not have to be done with a direct, brute force attack on a person. The role of indirect use of force in violation of rights was addressed briefly by Ayn Rand in her essay on "The Nature of Government" (in The Virtue of Selfishness) and by Leonard Peikoff in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (specifically Chapter 8 - "Virtue", and mentioned again in Chapter 10 - "Government").

A more elaborate discussion of the role of "indirect" force and the subtleties of different ways of directly and indirectly using force to gain values without the consent of the owner is probably best done under the "Political Philosophy", "Ethics" or "Questions about Objectivism" forums, not here in the "Engineering and Technology" Forum in a thread on spamming in particular. It is clear enough how spammers, hackers, etc. are violating rights by initiating an onslaught of electrons :) gaining entry into computers against the desires of their owners, thereby forcing the owners to expend time and effort trying to keep them out and keep control of their own stored information.

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Moose: Everyone complains about spam, but I honestly don't think I get any.
Then you have been very lucky.

The fact that you aren't getting spam now doesn't mean that you won't and it doesn't mean that spam is not a big problem. According to this May 22, 2004 report "Two-thirds of all e-mail is spam", with over 80% of all email in the US now spam.

Once your address gets into the hands of a spammer, over time it will almost certainly be spread on lists they sell to each other. Once an address spreads it is not uncommon to get 50 or hundreds of spams per day, eventually forcing you to abandon your account.

Be careful who you give your address to and never respond to a spammer. If you have to provide an email address at a web site (such as for an online purchase) use a free "throw-away" account; don't use your main address. Never post your address on a web page (such as a forum) -- spammers use "robot" programs to scan the web in search of addresses. If someone sends you mail with your address in the "cc" field tell them to stop broadcasting your email address -- always use "bcc" for multiple recipients so the addresses are not seen.

It is a nuisance to worry about all that, but once you come under attack you will appreciate it. Act on principle and avoid that the best you can.

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I do not get all that much spam myself. Partially because my e-mail addresses are not all that easy to find (compared to many others anyway) and because I am very careful to only reveal my e-mail when I have reason to beleive it will not result in me getting alot of spam.

As to whether or not it violates ones rights...

If they send you say one peice of spam (it does happen... :D ) then it is not violating ones rights then. However when we consider that many spammers send more messages even if we do not want them / request them to stop, then it does violate ones rights. Especially if they give you no way to stop them bar spam-filters.

As for those that result from you expecting one sort of e-mail but getting another, clearly that too is dodgy.

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I am still puzzled over your statement in post #14 that "Fraud is an indirect form of force", in light of other parts of your reply:which I agree with. I don't know how to reconcile the two positions, except via the word "indirect". Even then, you would be saying that fraud is a form of physical compulsion, somehow distinct from "direct force", and I don't see how the concept of compulsion is applicable to fraud. If the statement "Fraud is an indirect form of force" is simply a mistake, then I don't think there is any remaining issue here.

Here's my understanding of it, perhaps this will help you:

When you buy a good or service, the agreement typically takes the form: "I will transfer ownership of this quantity of money to you ON THE CONDITION that you do X," where X is the good or service you're purchasing. The "on the condition that" is the important part here.

If I give you $10 now to mow my lawn next Sunday, that $10 only remains yours if you actually mow my lawn next Sunday. If you don't, then the condition I placed on the transfer of ownership has been violated, the agreement becomes void and ownership of the money reverts back to me. You are now holding MY $10 without my permission, which comes under the definition of force.

Of course, not every such case will be a case of fraud. If you weren't able to mow my lawn because of an unforseen rainstorm, for instance, the contract is still null and void but it wasn't a criminal act on your part. That's an accidental use of force, not a deliberately coercive one. It becomes fraud when you intentionally do not fulfill the conditions and yet still refuse to return my money.

Does that help?

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Here's my understanding of it, perhaps this will help you:

When you buy a good or service, the agreement typically takes the form: "I will transfer ownership of this quantity of money to you ON THE CONDITION that you do X," where X is the good or service you're purchasing.  The "on the condition that" is the important part here.

If I give you $10 now to mow my lawn next Sunday, that $10 only remains yours if you actually mow my lawn next Sunday.  If you don't, then the condition I placed on the transfer of ownership has been violated, the agreement becomes void and ownership of the money reverts back to me.  You are now holding MY $10 without my permission, which comes under the definition of force.

Of course, not every such case will be a case of fraud.  If you weren't able to mow my lawn because of an unforseen rainstorm, for instance, the contract is still null and void but it wasn't a criminal act on your part.  That's an accidental use of force, not a deliberately coercive one.  It becomes fraud when you intentionally do not fulfill the conditions and yet still refuse to return my money.

Does that help?

I believe most email accounts can be set up to receive only mail from particular addresses specified by the account owner. That should stop all unwanted mail. Even if a spammer knew your address, his messages wouldn't get through. The problem I have with allowing fraud as the basis for a violation of rights is that the government uses "protection from fraud" as an excuse for extending its power almost without limit. So I favor the most restricted definition of fraud, since it really isn't equivalent to physical violence. There are usually ways for an intelligent adult to protect himself against fraud without getting the legal system involved.

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If I give you $10 now to mow my lawn next Sunday, that $10 only remains yours if you actually mow my lawn next Sunday. If you don't, then the condition I placed on the transfer of ownership has been violated, the agreement becomes void and ownership of the money reverts back to me. You are now holding MY $10 without my permission, which comes under the definition of force.
I agree with most elements of what you're saying, except specifically the "force" part. In particular, the part about failing to satisfy an obligation, and calling that "force". Of course you can chose to redefine "force" suitably -- what exactly do you have in mind? I use the word "force" in what I understand to be its literal meaning, something like "whacking" (of course, that's shorthand for hitting, shooting, cutting, poisoning...), but if you have a better definition of "force" that generalises to both "whacking" and "deliberate misrepresentation of material facts in an agreement", I'd be happy with that. You don't want to redefine 'force' in such a way that if you say "I'll pick up a loaf of bread on the way home" but later decide not to, you have initiated forced and are therefore subject to prosecution.

Another minor but important tweak is that contract voiding has to be done in accordance with the law, thus one party must prove in court that there was fraud: any consequences of non-performance in a contract have to be sorted out in court (so as to determine if there was a breach, whether there was fraud, and to determine if the breach is material). Until the contract is voided by the court, the other guy is still legally in possession of your $10. After your payment has been "legally" returned to you, it is yours again and the other guy keeping your stuff then falls more clearly into the category of "keeping by force". The problem is that until the court voids the contract and orders the return of your stuff, he isn't "keeping by force", and therefore you can't use "keeping by force" itself as the basis for a lawsuit. What we need is something that is independent of voiding the contract.

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I agree with most elements of what you're saying, except specifically the "force" part. In particular, the part about failing to satisfy an obligation, and calling that "force". Of course you can chose to redefine "force" suitably -- what exactly do you have in mind?

My broad definition for the term "force" is "physical contact by the property of one person with the property of a second without the second's consent." I should clarify that I consider a person's own body to be his property.

I use the word "force" in what I understand to be its literal meaning, something like "whacking" (of course, that's shorthand for hitting, shooting, cutting, poisoning...)
I use the term "violence" for such things. But I can see why you don't think that fraud is subsumed under force. By your definition of the term, it isn't.

You don't want to redefine 'force' in such a way that if you say "I'll pick up a loaf of bread on the way home" but later decide not to, you have initiated forced and are therefore subject to prosecution.

There's a big difference between a statement of intent and a contract. In a contract you are not only stating an intention to do something, but you are also granting to someone the right to forcibly hold you accountable if you don't follow through.

Another minor but important tweak is that contract voiding has to be done in accordance with the law, thus one party must prove in court that there was fraud:

The legal mechanisms involved in proving it are a separate issue.

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The legal mechanisms involved in proving it are a separate issue.
Right, but the full point I made was that your method of reducing fraud to force by contract voiding yields a paradox: that holding without permission results after the contract is voided, but the wrong must arise before there can be legal procedings to void the contract.

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Right, but the full point I made was that your method of reducing fraud to force by contract voiding yields a paradox: that holding without permission results after the contract is voided, but the wrong must arise before there can be legal procedings to void the contract.

Perhaps my use of the term "null and void" was misleading. I didn't mean to imply that ownership reverts back once the courts officially declare the contract void, I meant that it reverts once the conditions spelled out in the contract are broken. You just go to the courts to get legal recognition and enforcement of it, if necessary.

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I didn't mean to imply that ownership reverts back once the courts officially declare the contract void, I meant that it reverts once the conditions spelled out in the contract are broken.
I can't imagine how that would work under an objective legal system: it is, at least, an extremely harsh version of contract law. Though, I kind of like it from a quasi-Darwinian perspective. It would teach people to be extremely careful about any business dealings, given the huge risks that arise from possible error. Voiding a contract is not the normal recourse in case of breach; instead, the contract should be maintained, and the court determines what damage has resulted from the breach. Automatically voiding a contract whenever there is a breach means that the concept of "contractual obligation" is essentially null and void -- just violate some condition of the contract and your obligation is ended. Contract rescission is a very bad idea, and should be very restricted.

On the other hand, if you have in mind voiding the contract plus awarding damages, that would be a rather draconian punishment. To take a typical painter hypothetical, suppose the contract states that Smith will paint your house by August 14th and you will pay him $5,000 for the job. But alas, Smith isn't able to finish the job by the 14th (I guess his mom died unexpectedly) so he finishes the job on the 15th. He has breached the contract, and is now illegally in possession of your money. The courts then would have to void the contract, award you damages (let's say $100), plus he has to refund your money. Now I am not inextricably opposed to such a system, but I just want to point out that you are advocating a very radical and draconian departure from contract law. I don't think I would ever be willing to sign a contract under such circumstances, because I would be afraid of committing a minor and immaterial breach that would cause me to lose everything.

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I think we're straying a little too far afield here. It was never my intention to get into details of implementation (which I admit I haven't really thought about in detail), only to explain how fraud could be considered a form of force. I trust I've accomplished that much, at least?

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It was never my intention to get into details of implementation (which I admit I haven't really thought about in detail), only to explain how fraud could be considered a form of force.  I trust I've accomplished that much, at least?
Sorry, no: I thought I had made it clear why I don't see how fraud can be considered a form of force. I do understand the argument you made, but it's exactly because of those details of implementation that I argue that fraud cannot be reduced to the concept of force, at least as you outlined the argument.

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