Spam Wars: Initial Contact

I sent the following e-mail to Sen. Wayne Niederhauser and Rep. Sylvia Andersen today:

Dear Sen. Niederhauser and Rep. Andersen;

My name is Jesse Harris and I'm one of your constituents. As an IT professional, I've seen first-hand the kind of damage bulk unsolicited e-mail can cause to unprepared organizations. The investment made in trying to filter out this digital flotsam costs a lot of time, money and manpower to accomplish. (My own server consumes about 5% of its system resources fighting off spam.) Even highly accomplished professionals like Phil Windley, former CIO of Utah, can be crippled by these onslaughts. (See here: http://www.windley.com/archives/2007/08/my_mail_is_offline.shtml)

Federal legislation has done little to deter these spammers, only arming large ISPs and major corporations to be able to fight the onslaught. The costs and time associated with a federal suit just doesn't play well for Joe Average. What we need to combat this theft of system resources and frequent source of fraud and viruses is strong state legislation designed to send spam operators packing and let individuals pursue remedy in small claims court.

To this end, I've taken Utah's previous spam law, repealed in 2004, and updated it a bit to cover both unsolicited commercial e-mail and unsolicited bulk e-mail, the two types of messages currently accounting for nearly 90% of all e-mail. I have included it as a Word attachment for your consideration in the upcoming 2008 legislative session. I would strongly urge you to consider some kind of anti-spam statute as many other states offer some kind of protection against this deluge of viagra ads and mortgage offers.

Please let me know if either of you is willing to sponsor legislation similar to my proposal and thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.


Jesse Harris
(XXX) XXX-XXXX cell
(XXX) XXX-XXXX home

http://www.coolestfamilyever.com/
http://www.freeutopia.org/

If neither of them is willing to sponsor the legislation, I'm going to start looking around for legislators that might have an interest in doing so. If you want to sent the proposal to your own legislators, download a copy of the proposed bill here.

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9 Responses to Spam Wars: Initial Contact

  1. Andrea says:

    What about spam of a political nature? Can you ban that as well?

  2. Jesse says:

    That’d be UBE which is covered under the bill I proposed.

  3. Bradley Ross says:

    I don’t think legislation directed specifically at spam is the right way to go. For a (somewhat dated) look at the problem of laws and spam, check out this piece from TidBITS, an online Macintosh-oriented publication.

  4. Jesse says:

    More than a few spammers have been slapped with gigantic fines and jail sentences under the federal CAN-SPAM law (see here, here and here), but these are only the big guys getting smacked around. The smaller spammers don’t attract the same attention from the likes of AOL and AT&T and the end users have little recourse without a state law that allows filing in small claims courts.

    The federal law also doesn’t protect against spam that’s not of a commercial nature. This leaves big loopholes for political junk mail, unwanted newsletters (I practically had to threaten bloody murder to get rid of a business newsletter) and other bulk messages. At least one such party caused me so many problems that I had to setup a filter to automatically deliver her messages to the trash despite repeated requests to not be sent any more. (Susan Sorenson of the Constitution Party of Utah, I’m talking about you.)

    A common myth is that spammers are off-shore operators. This is simply untrue. The fact (and this has been established time and time again) is that most spammers send their messages from the US or are based here. Why? Because the targets (and the bandwidth) are in the US. You can track them down by finding the company behind the sales pitch and suing it.

    You might not be able to collect the money immediately, but anyone with a few judgments on their credit report won’t be able to buy anything on credit or even rent an apartment. They could also be slapped with a universal default on their credit cards that jacks up their interest rates.

    Spammers have a vested interest in making sure you don’t believe these things. After all, they want to keep the gravy train flowing.

  5. Mark Towner says:

    So Jesse, Have you got anyone to run your crap legislation? Did’nt think so…..

    Let me pose some questions to you. In your perfect world, how would the internet function?

    Do you receive mail from the United States Postal Service? How does mail get delivered to your door? If you eliminated all junk mail, ad’s from Smiths and Harmons, et al. how much do you think a first class letter would cost?

    Are your saying that somebody running for elected office, or has an issue thay want to advance should not be allowed to send you a registered voter information to inform the voter so they can make an informed decision? Would you like this stopped? So where do you draw the line Jesse, or do you follow the teachings of Karl Marx http://www.marxists.org/

    Mark T.

  6. Jesse says:

    Hyperbole? Check. Name calling? Check. Condescending tone? Check. Yep, it’s the real Mark. Are you actually interested in discussion or are you just looking to pick another fight? (Remember how the last one turned out?) Anyway… I’ll bite.

    The differences between junk mail sent via the US Postal Service and junk e-mail are gigantic. First, junk snail mail is paid for entirely by the sender. Junk e-mail incurs little cost to the sender and a lot of cost for the recipients thus causing Internet access rates to be higher to compensate for the lost resources. It’d be akin to having a “junk mail surcharge” on every stamp I buy.

    Second, junk snail mail has a way to opt-out that lasts several years and will almost entirely halt the flow of junk mail. Junk e-mail, however, can’t be stopped unless the sender feels like it or the force of law threatens it. The other option is to employ spam filters that cost money and resources as well as put you at risk of deleting legitimate mail.

    Thirdly, most junk e-mail always has a valid return address so you know who sent it. Because the sender is paying the cost, there’s a sense that the sender is somewhat verified and it instills confidence that the sender is legit. Junk e-mail offers little such verification, thus folks will fall for phishing scams and the perpetrators often escape without risk.

    You can keep on trying to play the “you want to silence free speech” card all you want, but it’s obvious to me you have no idea what you’re talking about. If you did, you wouldn’t have to resort to your tired name-calling. It’s like you get a shiny nickel every time you call someone a liberal/Marxist/etc.

  7. Kristi says:

    Someone called Jesse a Marxist *snort*

  8. Mark Towner says:

    Just finished some programming and I thought I would see if you had responded to my post.
    Jesse wrote

    “Hyperbole? Check. Name calling? Check. Condescending tone? Check. Yep, it’s the real Mark. Are you actually interested in discussion or are you just looking to pick another fight? (Remember how the last one turned out?) Anyway… I’ll bite.”

    Could you please elaborate with specifics to each check, with what I said.

    As far as the other issue is concerned, I did’nt realize you felt you were in a fight, whatever…..

    Here is my take. What does a Yahoo email account cost ? $0.00, or how about a Gmail account, humm nothing, or how about a hotmail account, humm nothing….. I could go on and on about free email with all the spam filters thrown in. So if somebody can get an email address for free, what are the other costs. Well lets see, anyone can get access to the internet free at the public lib, or most airports, or even at Liberty Park, and soon I understand on Trax. So let’s see if I got this straight, You can get free Internet access, you can get free email accounts, you can get free spyware, and virus protection, free spam filter software, In fact if you are a UNIX person like me you can get everything for free, including the equipment when folks throw away perfectly good computers to run the latest version of Windows. I know you are somehow connected to UTOPIA, can you explain why you are so vocal about the these issues?

  9. Jesse says:

    Hyperbole: “Are your saying that somebody running for elected office, or has an issue thay want to advance should not be allowed to send you a registered voter information to inform the voter so they can make an informed decision?”

    Name Calling: “So where do you draw the line Jesse, or do you follow the teachings of Karl Marx”

    Condescending Tone: “So Jesse, Have you got anyone to run your crap legislation? Did’nt think so…..”

    If being threatened with a lawsuit isn’t a fight, then I guess I don’t know what is. Maybe I’m not drinking the right KoolAid.

    Your “free” examples don’t really pan out. Yahoo and Google don’t provide “free” e-mail out of the goodness of their hearts. They do it to sell more ad space and entice you to sign up for paid premium services. The “free” Internet access at the library is paid for by Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Taxpayer. The “free” spyware or spam protection still consumes additional system resources. The “free” UNIX server consumes electricity and takes time to configure. (When I moved to a VPS instead of hosting in-house, our electric bill dropped a good $10/mo, almost half the cost of the hosting.) These “free” examples cost someone time and money at some point. The question is who it costs and what they’re doing to recoup it.

    The extent of my connections to UTOPIA is that I very vocally advocate for it. As I already explained, I have not and never have been employed or otherwise compensated by UTOPIA, DynamicCity, any of the service providers or any of the contractors on the project. Is that so hard to believe? Keep on sending them e-mails, though, if you don’t believe me. The time is yours to waste.

    I’m vocal about spam because I’ve had to spend a lot of time and resources, both personally and professionally, trying to eliminate it. Our server wastes a full 5% of resources so that SpamAssassin can swat down junk e-mail messages. Many more messages don’t make it that far since I don’t run an open relay. Mail is our office is delayed up to 10 minutes because the spam filter is usually overwhelmed by the number of messages it has to check. Excessive spam by a previous user caused an IP address reassigned to an answering service to be listed in RBLs. This caused messages to not be delivered to doctors, something that is very dangerous. Spam is a very real cost comprising upwards of 90% of all e-mail volume. Who do you think that cost gets passed on to?

    What I’m gathering is that you think it’s a fundamental right to bombard people with ads for pirated copies of Windows, cheap Viagra, mortgage loans and “hot XXX action”. If that’s the case, you’re on the wrong side of the issue.

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