Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam…

7 o’clock in the morning on Thanksgiving Day, the phone rang. Chris struggled to consciousness to answer it, for whoever was calling at that time on a holiday clearly had a crucial message to convey, right? Wrong. “BEEP…..BEEP…..” The offending creature was a fax, tarnishing even this sacred festival (well, sacred to the consumption of far too much honey-baked ham, anyway) with random efforts to deliver junk advertisements for T-shirts, financial advice, or even, in a masterpiece of recursiveness, the faxing of junk advertisements.

I think that was probably the straw for me. I’m now prepared to stand up and say, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.” Junk phone calls, junk faxes, junk emails – life is too short to deal with them all. I think the problem is probably worse here in the States, then it was back in Britain, because here, local phone calls are free. The spammers can thus spend all day dialling numbers, without having to pay a cent.

It makes me wonder whether there might be a justification for that occasional hoax email which claims that some governmental body or other is going to tax email. If they were having to pay even 1/10 cent per email, a lot of the spammers would be loath to blitz millions of addresses as they do. Of course, there are problems with this, not least collection, given the fly-by-night nature and foreign location of a lot of them. And then, there are the legitimate mailing lists, which you actually want to get mail from, which would be crippled by such a fee.

One alternative approach is to go after the spammers aggressively. Chris Gore of Film Threat took that approach, after someone hacked their mailing list, tracking down the home info and other details of the people responsible and publishing it all on their site. This did seem to have some effect – we faxed the spammers a polite request to stop their anti-social activities, and gratifyingly, got back our fax next morning with “FUCK YOU” scrawled across it. Gore is now filing a lawsuit against them. More power to his elbow, even if it’s probably entirely futile.

If you can afford the time, perhaps the most plausible approach – and certainly the most entertaining – is that taken by the War on Spam website, who basically yank the chains of the spammers, attempting to waste as much of their time as they waste of ours. The entire process is documented, and the transcripts published on the site; it’s immensely pleasing to read the results. Probably wisely, those involved operate largely under pseudonyms such as “Jason Hardknob”, since there is nothing more dangerous than a pissed-off Nigerian, trying to fleece you out of tens of thousands of dollars, who has just realised that he has been screwed with. No praise is high enough for those who take on these dangerous jobs, which border on a divine mission.

Unfortunately, while undeniably amusing, it too is perhaps all Canute-like, for the odds are that the volume of spam will increase in the future. There will always be idiots out there who want to increase their penis size, see Hot Barnyard Action, or simply MAKE MONEY FAST!!!! At least it’ll hopefully keep them busy, and out of the way of the rest of us.