Anyone who has an email account knows the annoyance and frustration caused by unwanted junk email messages. Spam also creates substantial Internet traffic, which is more than irritating for systems that have to handle the extra load. For many problems associated with spam, great efforts are being undertaken by industry and government organizations to curb its spread.
The basic social and technical issues of spam are defined at this helpful Web site (1). In addition to outlining the reasons why spam is bad, an interesting account about the true nature of removal lists is given. The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (2) provides a more in-depth discussion of how spamming works and how vendors exploit it. An extensive section about spam-related legislation includes both national and state movements. A great collection of articles written by an authority on the subject, Paul Graham, are available on his homepage (3). The articles mostly address filtering technologies that automatically remove junk email; Graham also maintains links to resources and tools that can be useful for controlling spam. On January 17, 2003, the Spam Conference (4) was held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Video of the presentations can be viewed online, and several of the speakers have provided links to their papers and research. A novel approach to deal with spam is proposed by a researcher from IBM. In his paper (5), he suggests a method of implementing a system in which the targets of spam can choose to collect a modest fee if they feel that they have been unnecessarily interrupted. If it were possible for a person to keep their email address private, spam would not be as big of a problem. This issue is addressed in a short paper from the Georgia Institute of Technology (6). The authors describe an email system that maintains a user's privacy by controlling how their email address is disseminated. An anti-spam bill introduced in the US Senate in April 2003 is discussed in this news article (7). If passed, the bill would allow email users to register online to not receive commercial advertisements. In a related story (8) from Virginia, legislators have enacted a law that allows very tough punishments for mass emailing. Violators can face stiff fines and even jail time. [CL]