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1. What is Spam?

Spam is a problem for everyone but you can turn some of it off.

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Most of us receive large amounts of unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE), commonly called "spam". The amount of spam being carried on the Internet is far more than an annoyance. It is costing you time and money.

Every day our mailbox is filled with wonderful "special offers", prescriptions and remedies, free gambling and pornography, investment advice, toner, insurance, ad nauseum. Spam often has a deceptive subject line and/or a bogus return address. Some spam is legitimate and some is fraudulent.

Spam is not the same as the occasional mailings you may receive from companies with which you have an established relationship. These companies are reputable and they will gladly honor requests to be removed from their mailing list.

Spam works because a small percentage of people choose to respond to it. If spam were not profitable it would simply go away. It is profitable and it probably won't go away any time soon.

The term "spam" seems to have originated with Monty Python. In one of his skits a rather annoying waitress used the word "Spam" repeatedly as she described the foods that were available. In another skit a group of Vikings repeatedly sings "spam spam spam" as a means of drowning out what someone else is saying.

Thus, "Spam" has come to mean words you get piles of that don't mean very much, i.e., a barrage of annoying junk mail.

Spam!

SPAM is also the name for a delicious meat product made by Hormel.

Hormel has been very good natured about having their SPAM trade name being used for other purposes. They ask that junk e-mail be called "spam" while their meat product should be called "SPAM". They have several interesting Web pages.

 

This page is not intended to serve as an advertisement for SPAM. Our relationship with Hormel is that of a satisfied customer. We buy SPAM regularly, prefering the low salt variety. Just slice it in 1/8" or 1/4" strips and fry it in the pan like sausage. It is terrific with eggs.
 

Philosophical Questions department: What would you call junk e-mail that you receive from the Hormel company? Can you call it "spam" if it is advertising Spam?

Why is spam a problem?

Spammers use tricks to force thousands of pieces of junk mail through someone else's mail servers, often looking as if they originated there. Thus, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may appear to be the source of the spam when, in fact, they were a victim.

Your ISP must pay for the data lines, the servers, and the disk drive arrays needed to carry all of its traffic, including spam. ISPs maintain an Abuse department that fields spam complaints and that tries to shut down any spammers using its resources. And ISPs pay for a technical support staff to field calls from customers, many of whom call to complain about spam.

As of June 2003 some companies were reporting that over 50% of the mail received by their mail servers was spam. We routinely receive 30-50 pieces of junk mail each day. It has become a major problem for us. At one point the spam was causing the server to re-send messages repeatedly, thus leaving us with large numbers of duplicate messages (and spam) each day.

Your ISP must pay for the extra staff and equipment needed to deal with spam. Those costs are passed on to their customers. So, not only do you have to spend time processing the junk mail you receive, you are paying for the privilege. Worse, if your ISP is used by a spammer they could be "black listed", meaning that other ISPs may refuse to accept mail from them.

It costs spammers almost nothing to send millions of pieces of junk mail. It costs the ISPs and their customers quite a lot to deal with the spam they send. A number of free ISPs and e-mail providers no longer offer those services or they have cut back on what they will provide for free, in large part due to the costs of spam.

So, is spam a problem? It certainly is!


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< 03/19/06

   
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