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OUR GREATEST CHALLENGE FOR 2003
by: Cary Christian


You know, I just don't understand how so many people can't see the forest for the trees.

A lot of people do not like the topic I'm going to discuss tonight, but it is something we all have to deal with every day and it's only going to get worse unless something is done soon.

The amount of spam I receive on a daily basis has grown dramatically in the last few months. I'm sure it's the same with most of you. And it's not only the amount that's a problem. The fight between spammers and the anti-sp^m groups is getting nastier day by day. And you and I are caught in the middle!

Now don't go away just yet! This is not some article telling you about all the tools you can use to fight spam. Instead, I want to deal with the crux of the problem and talk about how we can nip it in the bud once and for all. It's an important topic. We either deal with it and find a solution or we will all suffer greatly. Let's just take a look at a few things that are being done and let me give you my take on why they don't and won't work.

1. Filters - I'm sorry, but what a crock! The person who ever dreamed filters would solve the problem just has no conception of how ingenious a determined spammer can be. The filtering methodologies are even published for goodness sake. Someone can simply study how the filters work and defeat them all day long. If they're too lazy to study, there are a number of services a planned email campaign can be run through to "cleanse" it to make sure it makes it through. Filters will never work, period. The proof? We have more filters in place now than you can count and the amount of sp^m just keeps increasing. Geometrically! Legitimate business emails get filtered, sp^m gets through.

2. Habeus - Worse than filters, my friends! The people who gave us filters are now putting forth a scheme to charge us for allowing our email to get through them. And who is joining them? Large companies who want to take the Internet back from small business. Trust me: the large corporations are extremely happy with this Habeus deal. YOU should not be! You need to stand up against it now. And again, anyone who doesn't think the spammers won't find a way to forge the Habeus headers is just dreaming. You and I will pay, the spammers won't, and the problem will just keep getting worse.

3. Legislation - I've never really seen legislation solve this type of problem. I think it's inevitable, but I doubt we'll like it very much. The Internet as we know it today was born with freedom of expression as its cornerstone. As layer after layer of legislation is added, the Internet will become more like any other communication medium and will lose a great deal of its character. And the spammers still won't be fazed. You think they won't spam just because it's illegal? You really think the government is going to put enough enforcement effort behind prosecuting a spammer to make it work? Come on, folks. Government has bigger fish to fry. They're not going to take resources away from finding kidnapped children to prosecute a spammer!

The whole spam issue has generated a lot of profits for people involved in the so-called fight against it. People who create the filters and the people who created Habeus have no real stake in stamping out spam. They stand to profit from it. Why should they eliminate it?

So what, then, do we do?

The answer is so amazingly simple.

When law enforcement works to solve a crime, often the motive of the criminal in committing the crime is an important element in solving the crime. Without a motive, the crime would likely not be committed. What is the motive behind the spammer's crime?

They profit from it!

How do they profit from it?

They profit from it because even people who say they hate sp^m will occasionally see something they're interested in and they will actually buy something from a spam email. That's what keeps them going. That's the ONLY thing that keeps them going.

The spammer is content to rely on a tiny response rate to make his or her profit. They buy a million addresses for under a hundred bucks and mail day and night knowing that if only a tiny, tiny fraction of the people they mail to actually buy something it will have been worthwhile. And people do buy.

Ask yourself what would happen if no one bought from a spam email. Do you think anyone in their right mind is going to spend hours every day sending out email if their return on their investment of time and money is zero? These are very bad or very misguided people, but they're not necessarily stupid. If it doesn't work, they will stop. Plain and simple.

So do you really want to stop sp^m? Then don't buy from spammers. Tell everyone you know not to buy from them. If you run an ezine, tell your subscribers. Put the message on your site somewhere. You can use this article if you want. Make the phrase "Don't buy from spammers!" a mantra that gets repeated throughout the Internet.

Spammers can avoid filters, forge headers, hide their identities, they can even make it look like their sp^m came from YOUR website if they want. But they cannot and will not continue a pattern of behavior that is no longer profitable for them. So let's do our part to make it so.

That's all it takes.

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Copyright (c) 2003, Cary Christian
Peak Small Business Center - http://www.peakconsultinginc.com
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