From: "Norman L. DeForest"
Newsgroups: news.admin.net-abuse.email Subject: YAR (YetAnotherRant) about UCE -- I just need to vent. Date: Sat, 4 Sep 1999 19:57:08 -0300 The following is a message I sent someone yesterday. I just feel that I can't get it completely out of my system without making it a little more public. In it I am replying to a response to my "product spam" boilerplate, http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/~af380/boilerplates.html#prodspam Identifying information has been snipped to protect the guilty -- although the spam was reported in this newsgroup. Date: Fri, 3 Sep 1999 14:14:44 -0300 (ADT) From: "Norman L. DeForest" <email@example.com> To: [snip] Subject: Re: [snip] On Tue, 31 Aug 1999 [snip] wrote: > Hi- > Found your note useful and informative. The direct online mailing was > actually [snip]'s well-meant initiative, which was immediately squelched. > > It is sociologically fascinating that such a curious sensititivty should have > developed over unsolicited e-nail advertising. Though such mail does annoy me > too, it does not annoy me any more than the mail that arrives unsolicited in > my surface mailbox daily. I generally have little trouble distinguishing > simple announcements [snip possibly identifying subjects] from the many > schemes and commerical products that grace the non-electronic mails. > > I note that in trains, busses, on highways too I am constantly exposed to > advertising I did not ask to look at. And many of us do express our > annoyance--but nothing like the frenzy that has grown up online. It is > interesting; but inasmuch as it is real, we certainly intend to heed it. > Steps have been taken. > > Thanks for your interest. > > [snip] I appreciate that steps have been taken to prevent a reoccurence of this. You do, however, miss the point completely as far as the objections to unsolicited email is concerned. It is not the advertising that is objectionable; it is the delivery method. If robot diallers and taped messages were allowed for telephone soliciting, imagine how little work you could get done if you received a telemarketing call every five minutes. Of course, you *could* just have your telephone removed -- but you then lose a valuable means of communication. Or for a fictional, perhaps facetious, example... You are living in the (fictional) country of Dumbolia. The new government has made promises to do a number of things including reducing government spending and encouraging business. To carry out the first of these, the Dumbolia Postal Service has been ordered to take drastic measures to reduce expenses in handling mail. These measures have placed the following restrictions on mail service: 1. To eliminate the cost of letter-carriers, all (potential) mail recipients must get a post-office box at the post office. If you do not do so, you can no longer receive mail. 2. Office space is at a premium so no space will be allocated for the storage of mail. If mail arrives for you and there is not enough room in your mailbox, the letter or package will be immediately returned to the sender. If there is no room in the sender's mailbox for the returned letter or package, it will be discarded. Letters will be shredded and the paper recycled and packages will be disposed of in a landfill. To promote business, another law has been passed to make it easier and cheaper for businesses to send marketing information to potential customers. 1. The postage for bulk mail will now be charged only for the first piece of mail. The remainder of the promotional messages will be distributed for free. One business letter or a thousand business letters will cost the same -- as long as all of the letters are the same. 2. To reduce printing costs for the businesses, the Post Office will also print the promotional messages for the business. The business only needs to provide one copy of the message and a list of addresses which can be sent to the post-office as hard copy, on floppy disk, on CD-ROM, or uploaded to the Post Office's server. On receipt of the postsge for one letter, the Post Office will duplicate the letter or flyer as many times as is necessary to send one copy to each name on the businessman's list. (Actually, Canada Post has a service available for printing business mail including advertising flyers and monthly invoices. It is a pilot project available only in select cities at the moment. Of course, their fees are much higher than in the country of Dumbolia.) Soon lists of addresses become available from budding young entrepreneurs on CD-ROMs. "500,000 mailing addresses for only $50." Also, businesses learn what times most people send personal mail and they time their deliveries so that their promotional literature arrives at the Post Office first. Under those conditions, how valuable would postal mail be for every-day communications in Dumbolia? If you needed the results of a laboratory test from the other side of the country to determine which treatment is more likely to cure a medical problem your daughter has, what are the chances of your doctor getting the results. (Let's assume the results must be displayed in a format that cannot be described to her over the telephone.) She is much more likely to be discarding a boxful of junk mail every day and the lab results will be recycled into paper towels without her ever seeing it. Email is very much like Dumbolia's new postal system. Email boxes have a finite size. If a message arrives that will make you exceed your quota then than message is held for a while and then bounced back to the sender. If the sender's email box is full, nothing can be done with the message except discard it. The one difference is that the electrons are not recycled. The sending of spam is very much like Dumbolia's business-support plan. When an email message is sent, you don't have to individually send to each recipient. You can use "Cc:" or "Bcc:" to send the same message to as many people as you want. The mail transport agent is responsible for sending a separate copy of the message to each receiving domain and the receiving domains send a copy to each of the recipients at that domain. Spammers also love to send their junk late in the evening or early in the morning when most ISPs' staff is either off duty or tired from working all-night or off for the weekends in order to maximise the time they hav available to send their junk without getting cut off. This increases the chances of a lot of junk email arriving while the recipients are off-line and increases the chances of their getting their INBOXes filled to capacity and legitimate mail being discarded. Of course, if sending these unsolicited messages becomes acceptable and messages start to compete with each other for attention, the advertisers will try to make their messages stand out from the others. You will have messages with embedded graphics (happening now with HTML spam), embedded audio and video clips, and whatever new multimedia feature the software developers come up with next. Soon you would be seeing junk email with message size in the two or three megabyte range or larger. (Someone sent a message to a mailing list on this system that had a three-megabyte audio attachment. None of the copies could be delivered so all of the undeliverable copies filled up the temporary mail queue directory on this system and all of the users on the system had email access cut off until the technical staff removed the messages by hand. Also, any user who had altered their INBOX while the directory was full ended up with a corrupted INBOX and had to telephone the technical staff to fix their INBOXes before they could access email again. I have received a few messages that exceeded 200K bytes. The standard INBOX size on this system is 500K. Two such messages and another smaller one could fill my mailbox completely. I have had one case where a spammer put all 2840 of the address in his recipient list in the "Cc:" header instead of the "Bcc:" header. That meant that an eight-line message used up over 65K of my INBOX quota. Then a large number of recipients used the "reply-to-all-recipients" feature of their email programmes to send a "remove" request to the spammer. Another flood of 65K-byte messages landed in my INBOX. I was on line when the first two messages arrived. I saved the spam and the first "remove" message to my mail directory, exited pine to download them, re-entered pine again to find a half-dozen more messages. I saved those for downloading, exited pine to download them, re-entered pine only to find.... (repeat that last statement over and over for a couple of hours and then a few more times for the next few days as the later remove requests trickle in.) In the first two hours after the spam hit my INBOX, I downloaded just under a megabyte of remove requests. The spam itself took the total over the megabyte barrier. And INBOXes here are only half that size. If I had not been logged in when the first of the messages arrived, any personal email sent to me would have bounced back to the senders. If spamming ever became 'respectable', the scenario above would become the norm with larger and larger messages. The personal use of email would become impossible. Please refresh your sociological education on the topic of "The Tragedy of the Commons." Then you may have some idea what the anti-spammers are fighting against. Email could be a wonderful tool for bringing the world together. I have corresponded with a genetic scientist in India, a medical student in Russia, and a UFO enthusiast in the Netherlands. I have helped out people in Brazil, Korea, and California. (A NASA researcher had a programming error wipe the partition table information from one of his disk drives. Using only DEBUG, DEBUG scripts, and the output from them sent back and forth by email, I was able to determine the original contents of the partition table and rebuild it for him, restoring access to all of the files on that drive. I feel very proud of that. If mankind ever reaches the stars, I may have played a small part in that quest.) I have helped a disabled woman in the US find the information she needed to prove that a medical aid was a necessity and not a luxury so she could get it through her medical insurance. I have helped the mother of a blind girl find children's books in braille ("http://www.seedlings.org/"). The very idea of spam ever becoming respectable threatens to take all of that away from me by making my mailbox useless. And that communication is too precious for me to give it up without a *damned* *good* *fight*. -- Norman De Forest http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/~af380/Profile.html firstname.lastname@example.org [=||=] (A Speech Friendly Site) Q. Which is the greater problem in the world today, ignorance or apathy? A. I don't know and I couldn't care less.
I wrote above (and misspelled "addresses"):
I have had one case where a spammer put all 2840 of the address in his recipient list in the "Cc:" header instead of the "Bcc:" header. That meant that an eight-line message used up over 65K of my INBOX quota.
I have since had a spammer exceed the 2840 addresses figure. This one used 3479 addresses and duplicated them in the format:
"'username@domain'" <username@domain>, ...
That message was 179247 bytes in size -- almost 180K bytes. A copy
of it with the addresses "xxx"ed out is available at:
for your viewing displeasure. For lynx users, my addresses (the obsolete one and the current one) are at page 19 (of 135 pages). And this was not an obvious scammer like most spams. This was from a company claiming affiliation with MasterCard.
So far, while the company that sent the original spam has informed me by telephone that they "bought a list" (ie. got suckered in by a spamware vendor) and that the results were so poor that they have decided to no longer use bulk email as a marketing technique, MasterCard has indicated that they will take no action on this or any other spamming by their affiliates:
As stated in previous emails, MasterCard can not control the advertising policy of it's members. We suggest you contact the soliciting company directly about their practices and ask them to remove you from their mailing list.
So you can see their intractability for yourself, a copy of all of
MasterCard's messages to me (all of which quote my messages to them with
no snippage; large, 99K) is available at:
with lines of periods, "...." separating each message.
This is an indication that spamming by otherwise legitimate companies is more of a threat to the email system than scammers are as they are more likely to convince some people that their junk is acceptable.
One good thing to note about this one. This time nobody used the "Reply to all" option to request removal from the spammer's mailing list. People are learning.
MasterCard showed their utter cluelessness a second time when I tried to get them to cut off the merchant account of a spammer promoting a credit-repair scam. I quoted to them the following URLs:
Ignoring all of the information I gave them, their response was:
"We suggest you contact the soliciting company directly about their practices and ask them to remove you from their mailing list."
Read both of their responses to this in my file: