Posted by: nickgerlich | March 12, 2008

Spamalot

It’s everywhere. You cannot avoid it. It’s almost as bad as the wind in West Texas.

I’m talking about spam.

SpamThere’s Street Spam cluttering residential yards and nearly every street corner and telephone pole. There’s phone spam when we get home. There’s mailbox spam every afternoon. There’s text spam on our phones. And, perhaps most pervasive and insidious, there’s email spam.

Everyone thinks their First Amendment rights extend to wherever you or your mechanical devices can be reached. Thankfully, though, courts are starting to rule in favor decency and protection for the common person. Yesterday the Virginia Supreme Court upheld a spammer’s conviction. There is now hope that this precedent may one day help quash what is without doubt the biggest annoyance we face on a day to day basis.

Jeremy Jaynes was considered one of the Top 10 worst spammers in the US back in 2003. Authorities believe he may have been responsible for as many as 10 million junk emails a day, and grossed up to $750,000 each month. That’s a lot of junk email; but what is even more surprising is that there are suckers who opened his mail, clicked on links, and bought things.

Which begs the question: Do we need protection from Jaynes and his ilk? Or is spam just an unwanted artifact of our technological era, and it’s up to us to dispose of it just like we do regular junk mail?

Unless you TiVo everything you want to watch, and then skip past the commercials, there isn’t much we can do about TV intrusions. Banner ads and the enormous barricade ads that appear when loading a site are often unavoidable (unless the site owner is nice enough to include a “Skip” button). And no matter how much some municipalities try to regulate, outdoor advertising is alive and well. We live in a relatively free economy, and one price we pay is having to control our advertising exposures.

But email spam is quite another thing. Often private computers have been hijackedby bots to spew millions of emails. Legitimate email addresses are “borrowed” from innocent people, and added in the “Sender” line. Bandwidth is being hogged for something that has no real social benefit, other than to the spammer. And servers owned by legitimate companies, like AOL, are being used to machine-gun emails through the pipeline.

I don’t feel one bit sorry for Jaynes. His 9-year sentence is not nearly long enough. I just hope they don’t let him come near a computer any time soon.

Dr “Eggs, Sausage, and Spam” Gerlich

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