The Economics of Spam

Written by Sam Vaknin

Continued from page 1

The line between permission-based or "opt-in" e-mail marketing and spam is getting thinner byrepparttar day. Some list resellers guaranteerepparttar 105894 consensual nature of their wares. According torepparttar 105895 Direct Marketing Association's guidelines, quoted by PC World, not responding to an unsolicited e-mail amounts to "opting-in" - a marketing strategy known as "opting out". Most experts, though, strongly urge spam victims not to respond to spammers, lest their e-mail address is confirmed.

But spam is crossing technological boundaries. Japan has just legislated against wireless SMS spam targeted at hapless mobile phone users. Four states inrepparttar 105896 USA as well asrepparttar 105897 European parliament are following suit. Expensive and slow connections make this kind of spam particularly resented. Still, according to Britain's Mobile Channel, a mobile advertising company quoted by "The Economist", SMS advertising - a novelty - attracts a 10-20 percent response rate - compared to direct mail's 1-3 percent.

Net identification systems - like Microsoft's Passport andrepparttar 105898 one proposed by Liberty Alliance - will make it even easier for marketers to target prospects.

The reaction to spam can be described only as mass hysteria. Reporting someone as a spammer - even when he is not - has become a favorite pastime of vengeful, self-appointed, vigilante "cyber-cops". Perfectly legitimate, opt-in, email marketing businesses often find themselves in one or more black lists - their reputation and business ruined.

In January, CMGI-owned Yesmail was awarded a temporary restraining order against MAPS - Mail Abuse Prevention System - forbidding it to placerepparttar 105899 reputable e-mail marketer on its Real-time Blackhole list. The case was settled out of court.

Harris Interactive, a large online opinion polling company, sued not only MAPS, but ISP's who blocked its email messages when it found itself included in MAPS' Blackhole. Their CEO accused one of their competitors forrepparttar 105900 allegations that led to Harris' inclusion inrepparttar 105901 list.

Coupled with other pernicious phenomena, such as viruses,repparttar 105902 very foundation ofrepparttar 105903 Internet as a fun, relatively safe, mode of communication and data acquisition is at stake.

Spammers, it emerges, have their own organizations. NOIC -repparttar 105904 National Organization of Internet Commerce threatened to post to its Web siterepparttar 105905 e-mail addresses of millions of AOL members. AOL has aggressive anti-spamming policies. "AOL is blocking bulk email because it wantsrepparttar 105906 advertising revenues for itself (by selling pop-up ads)"repparttar 105907 president of NOIC, Damien Melle, complained to CNET.

Spam is a classic "free rider" problem. For any given individual,repparttar 105908 cost of blocking a spammer far outweighsrepparttar 105909 benefits. It is cheaper and easier to hitrepparttar 105910 "delete" key. Individuals, therefore, prefer to let others dorepparttar 105911 job and enjoyrepparttar 105912 outcome -repparttar 105913 public good of a spam-free Internet. They cannot be left out ofrepparttar 105914 benefits of such an aftermath - public goods are, by definition, "non-excludable". Nor is a public good diminished by a growing number of "non-rival" users.

Such a situation resembles a market failure and requires government intervention through legislation and enforcement. The FTC -repparttar 105915 US Federal Trade Commission - has taken legal action against more than 100 spammers for promoting scams and fraudulent goods and services.

"Project Mailbox" is an anti-spam collaboration between American law enforcement agencies andrepparttar 105916 private sector. Non government organizations have enteredrepparttar 105917 fray, as have lobbying groups, such as CAUCE -repparttar 105918 Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail.

But Congress is curiously reluctant to enact stringent laws against spam. Reasons cited are free speech, limits on state powers to regulate commerce, avoiding unfair restrictions on trade, andrepparttar 105919 interests of small business. The courts equivocate as well. In some cases - e.g., Missouri vs. American Blast Fax - US courts found "thatrepparttar 105920 provision prohibitingrepparttar 105921 sending of unsolicited advertisements is unconstitutional".

According to,repparttar 105922 107th Congress discussed these laws but never enacted them:

Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail Act of 2001 (H.R. 95), Wireless Telephone Spam Protection Act (H.R. 113), Anti-Spamming Act of 2001 (H.R. 718), Anti-Spamming Act of 2001 (H.R. 1017), Who Is E-Mailing Our Kids Act (H.R. 1846), Protect Children From E-Mail Smut Act of 2001 (H.R. 2472), Netizens Protection Act of 2001 (H.R. 3146), "CAN SPAM" Act of 2001 (S. 630).

Anti-spam laws fared no better inrepparttar 105923 106th Congress. Some ofrepparttar 105924 states have picked uprepparttar 105925 slack. Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The situation is no better acrossrepparttar 105926 pond. The European parliament decided last year to allow each member country to enact its own spam laws, thus avoiding a continent-wide directive and directly confrontingrepparttar 105927 communications ministers ofrepparttar 105928 union. Paradoxically, it also decided, three months ago, to restrict SMS spam. Confusion clearly reigns. Finally, last month, it adopted strong anti-spam provisions as part of a Directive on Data Protection.

Sam Vaknin ( ) is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He is the the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Fighting Fire With Fire Won't Douse The Fire

Written by Stephen Brennan

Continued from page 1

Apart fromrepparttar obvious 'dragging down to their level' in which this method results, isn't it illegal? Arerepparttar 105893 people who have put together this web page and promoted it's use in danger ofrepparttar 105894 authorities deciding that they too, are contributing torepparttar 105895 daily plague of spam? I do hope not, as I know their intentions are based in a sense of fighting a huge, common evil.

I heard thatrepparttar 105896 first 'high profile' case against a spammer inrepparttar 105897 U.S., resulting in a hefty jail term, concluded only last week. I know thatrepparttar 105898 wheels of 'justice' do turn slowly, in almost everything but I believerepparttar 105899 reason for that is so that mistakes and more injustices do not result.

That is my concern with Internet citizens deciding to, as I said, takerepparttar 105900 law into their own hands and perhaps overlooking where their actions may backfire, or worse, giverepparttar 105901 spammer an even more powerful tool with which to assault their victims. I shudder to think what spammers, especially those who fall victim to this new idea, might do if they findrepparttar 105902 identity or email addresses ofrepparttar 105903 devisor/s of this idea.

We have relatively new laws to deal with spam and it's perpetrators. As I said, there has been, to my knowledge only one 'notable' and 'highly publicized' instance ofrepparttar 105904 law at work, whererepparttar 105905 Internet community has been able to feel a sense of 'justice' and, yes......payback, revenge, whatever. Giverepparttar 105906 Law a chance.

Again, I do understandrepparttar 105907 need for action and I know exactly how people feel about those who would spoil one ofrepparttar 105908 communication, information and media marvels of this, andrepparttar 105909 last century. However, I think we need to, at least, giverepparttar 105910 law a chance to make a difference before we even think about resorting to such means to dissuade spammers from plying their trade. If to no one else, we owe it to ourselves.

Stephen Brennan runs the ‘Home Based Business and Affiliate Center’- and is the author of ‘The Affiliate Guide Book’ - The definitive guide to becoming a successful Internet Affiliate (at little or no cost) - available at

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