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Bump on a Stump Internet Life and Times
with Jeff Clark, half (wit) of Internet Brothers
Volume 1, Issue 4 — late March 2000

     Washington state's anti-spam law, one of the strongest efforts to halt unsolicited commercial email in the country, violates the U.S. Constitution, a judge has ruled. Ruling on the first case brought under the law, King County Superior Court Judge Palmer Robinson dismissed a lawsuit brought by state Attorney General Christine O. Gregoire against Jason Heckel of Salem, Ore. The law violates the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution because it is "unduly restrictive and burdensome," hurting legitimate businesses more than it helps consumers, Robinson ruled in mid-March.

     Strike another blow for the anti-spam cause. According to L-Soft International's Spam-o-Rama, "Spamming" is an Internet term invented to describe the act of cross-posting the same message to as many newsgroups and/or mailing lists as possible, whether or not the message is germane to the stated topic of the newsgroups or mailing lists that are being targeted. It also refers to unwanted email solicitations sent to an individual whose email address has fallen into the wrong hands.

     We all know spam when we see it. You know, it's those annoying emails making unbelievable claims and promises like, "Earn $40,000 a month by stuffing envelopes", or "Get a masters degree without leaving your living room." I even think twice about "Better Than Viagra!", but resist the temptation. They point to roving URLs like http://37803875609, and say, "Yep, that's a real URL." If you reply to the "remove me from your list" link, the address is undeliverable, and now you're on 100 more lists.

     You've done everything you can to avoid spam. You don't sign-up for stuff, and you certainly don't visit web sites of ill-repute, do you? So how do these jerks find us anyway? Ah, the Inbox nemesis, Spam-bots. By now you realize it's too late. What can we do to keep it from getting worse?

     Never ever reply to a spam message. No matter how much it pisses you off, resist the temptation to respond with flaming names that would make your mom faint. That is exactly what the spammer wants. It means there's a person on the other end of that address (s)he harvested.

     Don't post your email address on your web site, encrypt it. How? By using mailto encoders or munging. Keep the Spam-bots at bay.

     Use filters to sort email either at the server or after it has been downloaded to your machine. Most standalone email software includes filters, and some of them are free. Those who have shell accounts, or server access, can use Operating System tools to handle messages as they arrive at the server. Filtering rules can be very simple and still be effective.

     There are many, many other ways to avoid spam, but there are even more ways for the scum to find you. If you are at all active on the Internet, you will assuredly be preyed upon. I don't want to be an ostrich and hide my head in the sand. It removes a large portion of the joy that is the Net — communication. Short of governmental legislation, spam is here to stay in the foreseeable future — it is an unfortunate fact of Internet life and times. Just don't be one.

     Until next time, be good, but not too.


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