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ATPM 3.09
September 1997




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Shine On

by Chad Poland,

The hot topic of internet discussion lately is "spam." In case you've been in a deep dark hole, "spam" is unsolicited, junk e-mail, usually advertisements. The controversy revolves around the fact that since many people pay for their internet time, they are also paying for people to advertise to them.

There are good arguments on both sides of this issue. The 'spammers' say they have the right to free speech and they're doing nothing wrong. Just as junk mail has a right to reach your home mailbox, spam has a right to reach your e-mail box. The "anti-spammers" say advertisers don't have a right to send us e-mail that wasn't requested. They especially don't have that right when we have to pay for our access. As we all can attest, spam is just annoying. We have to wade through it everyday (especially if you post to Usenet).

All of these heated discussions are unnecessary. If the anti-spammers are a large enough group, there won't be any spam, period.

One of the most important rights we have is Freedom of Speech. I am a staunch supporter of it. I don't think this issue needs to use the first amendment as a rallying cry. I do believe that bulk mailers have a right to send out what they want. The problem lies not with them, but with us. Let us not blame P.T. Barnum for putting a horn on a goat and calling it a unicorn. Let's put the blame squarely where it belongs—on our own shoulders.

Let me explain.

The spammers send out advertising for one reason, and one reason alone. They want to make money. If they don't make money, they stop. If they do make money, they send out more spam. These companies aren't Satan, they're companies. They must make a profit or go out of business. You can't blame them for trying to feed and provide for their families.

When someone joins spamming community, they are intent upon making a living. Whether it's the Psychic Friends Network or someone just selling trinkets out of their garage, they want to make money. If people weren't reading those e-mails and purchasing products, there would be no such thing as spam. Someone out there is giving bulk mailing companies cold hard cash. The offending companies must pay for their internet connections and hardware somehow. This money comes from people that buy their products.

If you don't like spam or if it costs you money, don't waste bandwidth sending them a reply saying, "I hate you scumbugs!" Instead, don't buy their product. Don't hate them, put them out of business. There would be no controversy if no one was buying their products. Every dollar in your wallet is a vote. The companies you give it to are candidates you are voting into office. If you don't want spam, don't vote for spammers.

If the proportion of people who hate spam is large enough, then the 'spammers' won't be able to turn a profit. If, on the other hand, people continue to purchase their products, we will continue to receive it. Many of the bulk mailers are small companies that work on a thin profit margin. If the bulk e-mail stops providing them an income, they will move on to something else.

I get junk e-mail on a daily basis and it's annoying. I spend time marking it as "unread" and deleting it.
After all, it takes up space on my hard drive until deleted. I hate spam as much as the next person, but it's important to protect everyone's first amendment rights. So next time you get a spam, just delete it instead of shooting off a rude commentary. Don't read it, and above all else, don't send them money. If everyone gets together and stops supporting these companies, we will have a spam-free internet.

It's as simple as that.

Chad Poland is a freelance writer who can be reached at Blue Apple<>. Visit his website at <> or say hello to him on EFNet in #duality as "shiner."

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