May 07, 2003

Spam-Wars vs. War-On-Terrorism

[A reply to a message on Report from FTC Spam Conference . (I probably should remind myself there's no benefit to me in the spam-wars)]

> ... I believe that the long history of law developed around
> governmental censorship can aid us in looking at where the current
> systems are going wrong and what they could do to make things better.

As an only slightly tongue-in-cheek idea, I wonder if the key analogy is not censorship law, but anti-terrorism law. To a first approximation, spammers seem to me to be much more akin to terrorists than traditional censorship-targets. That is, they're taking advantage of an open society (US/Internet) in order to "hijack" infrastructure so as to convert it for their own typically criminal actions (I don't mean to trivialize mass-murder versus tawdry scams, but a thief and fraud con man is still a criminal).

The Spam Wars have very much the flavor of the War-On-Terrorism. There's strikes at territories (Afghanistan or ISPs) which are "harboring" enemy forces, and woe unto any civilians who are caught in the middle. There's "If you are not with us, you're against us" attitudes of collective-guilt towards many other parties, and pariah powers using innocents as human shields in order to generate sympathy (cough what the "spam-friendly" ISP Media3 did with Peacefire cough).

Spam blacklists seem to be somewhat like "no-fly" lists, where there's a database which is checked before one can travel (whether passenger or email) via the facilities. And there's the whole issue of cloaking/hiding/anonymity, as the bad guys often try to get service under forged identities, to avoid detection. There's even the same sort of urgency to say "I agree those are bad guys, but ..." (there's some of this in censorship, but the intensity is much higher with terrorists than typical censored material, and the spam-wars look to have the intensity-level of terrorism, not censorship). Though there are some real bad guys indeed, well-financed and ruthless.

If we destroy the open Internet, the spammers will have won?

Seth Finkelstein Consulting Programmer sethf[at-sign]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in spam | on May 07, 2003 10:07 AM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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