The Anti-Spam Squad

It seems politics and spam make strange bedfellows. Some of the Internet's heavy hitters filed a collective lawsuit today against spammers. In case you've been hanging out under a rock, spammers are those odious individuals who clutter up your email inbox with unwanted, unreadable, and sometimes downright offensive unsolicited junk email. The lawsuit was filed by Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) America Online, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) , and EarthLink (Nasdaq: ELNK  ) .

Spam -- the electronic junk mail, not the canned meat -- disgusts the vast majority of Americans who spend time online. Spam trumps the old-fashioned, snail variety of junk mail with its vast numbers (some studies say about half of all email shooting across the Internet is spam), not to mention its capacity to perplex, dupe, and sometimes offend. It's not often (if ever) that you open your real-world mailbox only to have porn pop out at you. (Unless you subscribe to such things and that's a whole other issue.) Not to mention, spam's been a medium of choice for scam artists.

The lawsuit is being filed under the tenets of the CAN-SPAM Act, passed in January (that stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing, in case you were wondering). The press announcement heralds the lawsuit's pursuit of spammers and their activities, throwing out adjectives like "illegal," "intrusive," and "deceptive." (They forgot "stupid." In my humble opinion, one of the most annoying aspects of spam is how many of them are written by ding-dongs who can't even spell the products they're pushing.)

Among the violations the lawsuit cites include deceptive solicitations; sending spam through third-party computers to cover the tracks of where they're from; falsified "from" email addresses, also known as "spoofing"; swiping email addresses off websites for spamming purposes; and a lack of electronic unsubscribe options.

Whether or not the collective lawsuit against several known spammers will actually put a lid on the stuff, it's still an important move on an emotional level. Microsoft's Bill Gates, for one, has been all about spam in recent talks regarding security and has lots of new ideas. These have included such concepts as "caller ID for email" as well as a recent quote talking up the idea of paid postage stamps for email. (Personally, that latter concept kind of makes me mad, but that's for some other day.)

Many have criticized the federal CAN-SPAM Act, saying it overrides some states' more stringent laws and won't do much to eliminate spam. Indeed, it was enacted Jan.1 and spam is still going strong. However, even if that's the case, a united industry front to punish and make examples of offenders added to the anti-spam crusade certainly can't hurt.

Does spam make you want to rant and rave? Vent your feelings to other Fools on the Viruses, hoaxes, & spam, oh my! discussion board.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any companies mentioned. Contrary to what she expected, when she tried spam sushi, which is a favorite in Hawaii, she thought it was actually pretty good.


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