Bad Spam Good Spam
[P. J.] [RU] [FR]

Bad Spam, Good Spam

Electronic mail is agonizing. What once was a convenient tool for quick information exchange is becoming an open port for all kinds of viruses, unsolicited ads, or just silly junk. This is the era of spam. Once your e-mail address has appeared in public, you are bound to get flooded with purchase advice, dating suggestions, con game letters, or something utterly unreadable sent to the world by a crazy idiot just for fun. Every day, you have to spend a lot of time deleting spam from the inbox, and desperately trying to not delete something valuable by inertia. Sometimes, it's easier to call people on the phone than contact them by e-mail. Some people stop reading their e-mail, automatically deleting all the incoming messages. Others switch to SMS for short message exchange, but the mobiles too have already become infected by the spam canker, which is even more annoying. Paradoxically, fax communication has attained somewhat greater attraction, though it was often thought of as a rudiment of the past a few years ago. Unfortunately, this cannot last, since fax spam is as possible as any other spam, with computers working as fax machines. Instant messaging systems (like ICQ and Skype) are less vulnerable; but this is but a temporary delay until the appropriate spam technologies develop enough.

All the attempts to stop spam are bound to fail. There is no way to control every transaction and associate spam with a particular communication channel. Spammers use fake IPs, fake sender addresses, and there are numerous open relay servers that do not send spam themselves, but only forward anything in any direction, thus making spammers practically invisible. Even when spammers get eventually brought to the court, it is extremely difficult to distinguish them from "honest" advertisers, as long as any advertising at all is admitted.

Electronic anti-spam systems are almost as useless. There is no formal criterion that could clearly differentiate spam from a valuable message; there is always some risk of blocking a piece of important information, and this loss or delay can be even more harmful than spam. Using such filters for mere warning does not make the task of browsing through the spam any easier.

So what? Will the future generations stick back to paper mail, overburdened by spam? Probably not, since ordinary mail is as open to spam as any other communication channel, and paper spam has been known since long before the mass adoption of electronic mail. Hopefully, a technological solution can be found, to stop any unsolicited mail by making each message highly individualized, to quickly detect spammers. But spammers will always invent an antidote for each new anti-spam technology, and the more we rely on technological solutions, the more dangerous they become, allowing a clever criminal to put the blame on an innocent person with a mere computer trick.

A durable solution can only be social. Spam must be made useless, and no person should be as poorly educated as to ever conceive becoming a spammer. But this will require a drastic change in the social organization in general, and the ruling classes of today would rather prefer an unusable mail system to an economic and social revolution.

Well, even the worst thing in the universe has some good inside. The procedure of deleting spam from one's mailbox can be very comforting and psychologically soothing, allowing an employee to distract from intensive work for a while without being blamed by the boss for playing solitaire, or watching porn movies on the Web. Just kill them one by one, and imaging that you're killing your pains and sorrows. Make your mailbox cleaner, and feel how all your life is getting cleaner in the while. For such moments of quiet happiness, let gods bless good spammers, in all their spiritual misery.

[Assorted Notes] [Unism]