Ban SPAM!

October 5, 2004 - Unsolicited Email is No Different than Unsolicited Facsimile

Note:  You are free to use this information as you wish -- duplicate, distribute, publish.  Attribution is appreciated.

Write (on paper, do not email) to your state and federal elected officials asking them to permanently ban spam.  Some "talking points" you may find helpful are below.  Why write on paper?  Because your elected officials, for some inexplicable reason, have reduced or eliminated their use of public email.

A common objection to the outright ban of spam is that the First Amendment rights of the advertiser will be infringed.  This was resolved without issue for facsimile many years ago for the simple reason that the advertiser may not express himself and charge you for the privilege.  In any case, I think the First Amendment was designed to protect individuals, not businesses.

On October 4, 2004, the Supreme Court refused to overturn the 10th Circuit Court's decision against telemarketers claiming that the Do Not Call legislation infringed their First Amendment rights. My uneducated opinion is that this provides adequate precedent to support similar restrictions on spam.

Here are my talking points.

• The recipient pays for SPAM, not the sender (this is the big one)

Here is a table showing who pays for delivery of advertising and whether unsolicited advertising using the various media is legal or not.

SourceWho Pays?Legal?Fair?Notes
Postal Mail Sender Yes Yes  
Telephone Recipient No Maybe Do Not Call; politicians & charities exempt; wildly abused.
Internet/Email Recipient Yes No It's the only loophole left
Facsimile Recipient No Yes  

As a recipient, I pay for delivery of telemarketing and electronic advertising.  Why is the sender is entitled to use services for which I pay, without my permission?  This was resolved many years ago for the first form of electronic delivery, facsimile.  It has been partially resolved for the telephone (Do Not Call).

• The recipient has no control over SPAM

The recipient of unsolicited email has no recourse.  CAN-SPAM prevents an individual from taking any action, a serious flaw in the law because it eliminates the powerful threat of class action suits.  Attempts to stop the flow of such email either do not work because the return address is bogus or encourage more SPAM because any response confirms that an email address is valid. 

• SPAM is a time waster, a drag on productivity

It takes quite a bit of time to deal with junk email.  Even with automated detection, which the spammers regularly defeat, much junk must be removed manually.  This may be only a few minutes a day, but it’s every day of every week for almost every email recipient in the United States.

• SPAM is dangerous

Email can contain computer worms and viruses.  Such threats arrive in unsolicited email, luring the victim with enticing subject lines or promises.  This has been the cause of many digital infections and epidemics.  Banning SPAM would help to reduce this very serious problem by putting email system operators on the hook for allowing such dangerous messages to pass through their systems.  Currently, email system operators have little or no incentive to do anything about email that passes through their systems.

• SPAM is costly

American businesses are spending billions of dollars to buy defense mechanisms against unsolicited and dangerous email.  This money is taken away from business profit (thus reducing corporate income tax receipts), dividends (thus reducing the value of investments), and product and business development (thus retarding the economy).  Individuals are spending their hard-earned dollars to defend themselves.

October 5, 2004 (Revised September 19, 2005; edited December 20, 2011).

Article Copyright ©2004-2011 by Will Fastie. All Rights Reserved.
The above material may be reproduced in any form without permission. Attribution is appreciated.

Tags: Help, Politics, Spam

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