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Anti-Spam Laws

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Yeah, I don't see how it is either. Spam is basically email that is usually trying to sell you something, which isn't a crime. One case I can imagine where it should be punishable by law is if someone sold your information which you gave it to them in confidentiality by contract and you receive spam mail as a consequence, but that can be hard to determine.

As long as you're careful with your information it shouldn't pose too much of a problem. One option is to have multiple email accounts. I use different email accounts for personal contacts, another for online friends, and another one for signing up for things that will likely result in spam. And so far, no problems. Most popular email services (gmail!) have spam filters now that work pretty efficiently, too. Fighting spam is just another way that email providers can compete to provide us with a better service.

[Edit: Added a comma.]

Edited by Enixyle
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Outlawing spam is crazy law, since "spam" is undefined. Not all so-called "spam" tries to make a legitimate sale. Vast amounts of it are harassment, assault and fraud, and should be punished under the law. I'm note sure of any of the penis enlarging and stomach-reducing spams are actually advertising an actual product which a person might possibly want, but at any rate, the advertiser does not have the right to flood your inbox with ads unless you agree to receive such advertising. A law which criminalized fraudulent emails (including forged headers) would probably cover 95% of all spam.

Theft is a crime, but I still recommend locking your door when you're out of the house. I am not persuaded that it would make any difference -- I doubt the anti-spam laws have had any effect in the US.

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It's a violation of your property rights the same way solicitating would be. On my campus we have people who put up ads for "Free pizza" if they sign up for credit cards and other junk. Anything you put up on campus has to be approved first, non of these ads are ever approved. The people just go and put them up regardless if you want them too or not.

This becomes a problem because they come in the dorms, my home, and start putting these flies under our doors and in every single corner of the place. Because they have been banned from the property, it's already illegal for them to do it. This would fall under the same catergory of someone walking on to your property and posting ads everywhere. So would the spam. You didn't give them explicit permession to use your property, therefore it's force because they are using your property against your will, OR it's fraud because you were tricked into signing into something you really didn't agree too (again, using your property in a manner you didn't agree too).

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This would fall under the same catergory of someone walking on to your property and posting ads everywhere. So would the spam. You didn't give them explicit permession to use your property, therefore it's force because they are using your property against your will, OR it's fraud because you were tricked into signing into something you really didn't agree too (again, using your property in a manner you didn't agree too).

If that were true, then wouldn't all mail which you did not request or preapprove be considered a violation of rights (even postal mail)? What about phone calls? If people can't contact you by these means, then how do they request permission in the first place?

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If that were true, then wouldn't all mail which you did not request or preapprove be considered a violation of rights (even postal mail)? What about phone calls? If people can't contact you by these means, then how do they request permission in the first place?
This is an instance of the complex problem of presumed permission, also relevant to property trespass and the presumed permission to knock on a door (and no more). A public no-spam, no-call database is sufficient warning and analogous to a physical no-trespassing sign. One difference between spam and phone slicitation is that phone-solicitation is generally not fraudulent, but spam almost always is, so the burden should be vastly higher on the spammer. For example, a blanket criminalization of fraudulent spam and an obligation to check for a "no-trespassing sign" would eliminate most unsolicited email ads, which is a good thing.
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The problem with junk mail is poorly-defined property rights. Legally, your mailbox is U.S. government property, so you don't have a right to decide who can send mail to it. Marketing companies have more clout than individual consumers, so they tend to twist regulations to their benefit. The same applies to anti-spam regulations, such as CAN-SPAM.

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For example, a blanket criminalization of fraudulent spam and an obligation to check for a "no-trespassing sign" would eliminate most unsolicited email ads, which is a good thing.

I agree with your stated principles for approaching this situation. However, in the context of spammers today, I am uncertain to what extent the government would be able to enforce these laws against international spammers. Perhaps computer networking experts know tactics to prevent mass, suspicious e-mails from a non-domestic IP addresses? Needless to say, I still think that such laws are appropriate.

The level of fraud in "phishing" spam is alarming. Just over the past few weeks, I have received e-mails impersonating popular commercial banks, widely known credit card companies, PayPal, the IRS and even a "job offer" from a global logistics company requesting a resume to be sent to a suspicious address.

Edited by DarkWaters
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Legally, your mailbox is U.S. government property

Lovely. I have to pay for it but the government owns it.

In general the post office is set up so that their obligation is to the sender--they paid the postage after all. This is why you can't stop junk mail by simply griping to the post office. You aren't their customer.

A system where the *recipient* pays for the service ought to (and does, albeit sometimes for more money) tends to be better at stopping unwanted crap. ISPs and the phone company come to mind. The phone company offers all sorts of services to help you screen out calls you do not want.

Someone once suggested, as a solution for spam, that every email cost $0.01 to send. The money would be credited to the recipient. Thus a back and forth exchange of e-mail would actually cost neither party anything. But spammers would go bankrupt. (Presumably free subscription lists would work on the basis of you don't get your next issue until you reply to this one.) Of course this would be a royal headache to implement. Possibly less painful would be a protocol where instead of directly altering people's billing, there would be a form of digital "money" on the internet and you get a supply of it with each e-mail account.

I read an interesting scene in a Heinlein novel once (the cat who walks through walls, IIRC), where someone called another party only to be greeted with the following: "I am asleep. Please deposit one hundred credits to ring my phone. If I agree that you had sufficient cause to wake me up, I will return your money." The phone would hold the money in escrow and let the call recipient decide what to do. Imagine if salespeople had to make that decision, even five dollars to interrupt dinner.

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However, in the context of spammers today, I am uncertain to what extent the government would be able to enforce these laws against international spammers.
The only legal recourse I can see would be holding the advertising company responsible for the actions of their agents. But that would only work if for example you were getting spam sent by Chinese agents on behalf of General Motors. And that's pretty rare. What irks me is that these stupid Bayesian filters cannot learn after over 3000 samples and 3 years that all email from Citizens Bank is spam.
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As long as you're careful with your information it shouldn't pose too much of a problem. One option is to have multiple email accounts. I use different email accounts for personal contacts, another for online friends, and another one for signing up for things that will likely result in spam.

I do the same. It makes going through what little spam I get a lot easier.

Outlawing spam is crazy law, since "spam" is undefined.

In their anti-spam law the New Zealand government has defined spam as "unsolicited email." Now the problem with that is obvious. It is too broad. Unsolicited email might actually be beneficial to the recipient. Technically speaking that could stop legitimate email from a business you are involved with, but have not solicited to email you. Or someone that meet you on a forum, somehow found out your email address, and emailed you. You might like to recieve either of those unsolicited emails in those examples, so clearly a blanket ban on unsolicited emails is fundamentally flawed.

Not all so-called "spam" tries to make a legitimate sale. Vast amounts of it are harassment, assault and fraud, and should be punished under the law. I'm note sure of any of the penis enlarging and stomach-reducing spams are actually advertising an actual product which a person might possibly want, but at any rate, the advertiser does not have the right to flood your inbox with ads unless you agree to receive such advertising. A law which criminalized fraudulent emails (including forged headers) would probably cover 95% of all spam.

Yes, that is what the law should do, since fraud is, of course, a breach of rights. Of course not all of what the New Zealand government defines as spam is fraudulent and may in fact be beneficial to the recipient. That is the flaw with the New Zealand anti-spam law it seems.

Theft is a crime, but I still recommend locking your door when you're out of the house. I am not persuaded that it would make any difference -- I doubt the anti-spam laws have had any effect in the US.

Well, the NZ law is only meant to target NZ spammers. While there is more of them than most people think there is still very few of them so I suspect the law will be pretty ineffective.

It's a violation of your property rights the same way solicitating would be. On my campus we have people who put up ads for "Free pizza" if they sign up for credit cards and other junk. Anything you put up on campus has to be approved first, non of these ads are ever approved. The people just go and put them up regardless if you want them too or not.

This becomes a problem because they come in the dorms, my home, and start putting these flies under our doors and in every single corner of the place. Because they have been banned from the property, it's already illegal for them to do it. This would fall under the same catergory of someone walking on to your property and posting ads everywhere. So would the spam. You didn't give them explicit permession to use your property, therefore it's force because they are using your property against your will, OR it's fraud because you were tricked into signing into something you really didn't agree too (again, using your property in a manner you didn't agree too).

Actually, I think that is innaccurate. I think it is more akin to getting fliers and supermarket brochures in your letter box. That is not illegal and nor should it be. There is no force involved. Being banned from the property (or told not to deliver email/mail), is a different matter, but if they are not banned from the property (or told npt tp deliver email/mail) no force is involved.

If that were true, then wouldn't all mail which you did not request or preapprove be considered a violation of rights (even postal mail)? What about phone calls? If people can't contact you by these means, then how do they request permission in the first place?

Exactly.

One difference between spam and phone slicitation is that phone-solicitation is generally not fraudulent, but spam almost always is, so the burden should be vastly higher on the spammer.

No it shouldn't. To say it should is to say the actions of most spammers put responsibilities onto the shoulders of the rest. That is simply not true. The actions of no man puts responsibilities onto the shoulders of other men.

I read an interesting scene in a Heinlein novel once (the cat who walks through walls, IIRC), where someone called another party only to be greeted with the following: "I am asleep. Please deposit one hundred credits to ring my phone. If I agree that you had sufficient cause to wake me up, I will return your money." The phone would hold the money in escrow and let the call recipient decide what to do. Imagine if salespeople had to make that decision, even five dollars to interrupt dinner.

That is actually a very interesting idea. It might even hold back those annoying phone calls asking you to do a survey! They pick the worst moments to do so, such as during dinner, or late at night when you have decided to settle down and relax.

Finally, I don't doubt such laws will ever be very effective. It can be extremely hard to track spammers, if not impossible sometimes, especially since a lot of spam, if not most of it, is sent by zombie computers (computers infected with malware that gets them to send spam for Denial of Service attacks) rather than being sent by the actual spammers.

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Yes, a great deal of legitimate, desirable e-mail is ''unsolicited" email, but that doesn't make it spam of course. Also targeting NZ spammers is like shaving the top off an iceberg, in that 99.9% (or whatever percentage is really the case) of spammers come from overseas, and there is nothing the NZ government can really do about them.

I like this credit idea. I suppose what you could do is get a chunk of credit when you got an email account (spammers would use this up quickly of course) and then you would have to buy more credits at a tiny amount now and again. Maybe every six months or so, or less if you used all your credits before that period. That way its not too much hassle for the user, and it should help put mass spammers out of business.

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One difference between spam and phone slicitation is that phone-solicitation is generally not fraudulent, but spam almost always is, so the burden should be vastly higher on the spammer.

The key word here is "generally"--there are apparently a number of phone-solicitors that will scam elderly people out of their life savings.

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I like this credit idea. I suppose what you could do is get a chunk of credit when you got an email account (spammers would use this up quickly of course) and then you would have to buy more credits at a tiny amount now and again. Maybe every six months or so, or less if you used all your credits before that period. That way its not too much hassle for the user, and it should help put mass spammers out of business.

Or use up the credits of zombie computers, as I said above, which they would do, so they wouldn't be so easily put out of business.

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No it shouldn't. To say it should is to say the actions of most spammers put responsibilities onto the shoulders of the rest. That is simply not true. The actions of no man puts responsibilities onto the shoulders of other men.
It most certainly should. You have no right to trespass on my inbox without my permission, and I have no obligation to tolerate your trespassing. It is not my responsibility to make it easy for a spammer to hassle me, it is their responsibility to secure my consent first.
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Oh crap, thats a good point, I forgot about the zombies (never a good thing to do, any sort of zombie is bad :lol:).

Ok, take away the initial credits then, because then they could create zombies to sign up for huge amounts of accounts with credit to use for that purpose. At least if actual people have to purchase credit, it is harder for the zombies to run. I suppose it call comes down to making sure actual money has to be spent, even by zombies.

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It most certainly should. You have no right to trespass on my inbox without my permission, and I have no obligation to tolerate your trespassing. It is not my responsibility to make it easy for a spammer to hassle me, it is their responsibility to secure my consent first.

I see you conviently ignored the examples of beneficial unsolicited emails i gave. To make a blanket statement that it is immoral to send unsolicited email is the same as saying it is blanketly immoral for someone to come on your properly and knock on your door without permission. To say it is blanketly immoral is to ignore the fact they might be there to tell you something beneficial for you to know, such as that your child is in danger, or that your car has been stolen. Would you want to miss out in knowing such things because they or you thought it was blanketly immoral for them to "trespass" like that. The truth is it is not tresspass and neither are the example unsoliciated email I gave. Unsolicited email/mail is not catagorically trespass, just as knocking on your door without permission is not.

Oh crap, thats a good point, I forgot about the zombies (never a good thing to do, any sort of zombie is bad :D ).

Ok, take away the initial credits then, because then they could create zombies to sign up for huge amounts of accounts with credit to use for that purpose. At least if actual people have to purchase credit, it is harder for the zombies to run. I suppose it call comes down to making sure actual money has to be spent, even by zombies.

Yes, though even that will not stop it. However, that idea does show how good the market is at solving problems. :lol:

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Well, no it probably wouldn't totally stop the problem, but it might make enough difference to be worth implementing along with other options. Someone throw out some bait for some real experts to come into the thread!

I don't see how any of those options could be implemented, do you? You couldn't really impose it on our current email system and an entirely new and independent system would probably be more of a hassle than being spam free is worth.

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I don't see how any of those options could be implemented, do you? You couldn't really impose it on our current email system and an entirely new and independent system would probably be more of a hassle than being spam free is worth.

Well, no I don't know how you would implement it (or even for sure that it might be practical, it might not be), but I'm sure you are right in that it would involve a serious shakeup of the current system. So it might not be a very good option, at least in the immediate future. It would depend I suppose on what other methods might come about first that resolve the problem enough to not warrant this drastic stage. I am hoping such DO come about.

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