Who loves spam? Raise your hand. You, with your hand up, we don't mean that canned ham stuff. We mean spam email. OK. All hands are down. We thought so.
Unsolicited email offers have become a national plague, so much so that recent studies suggest spam is driving people to use email accounts less frequently. Checking electronic mail -- an experience that just a few years ago bordered on giddy excitement -- has become a relative nightmare.
Fighting the avalanche of spam has proven largely unsuccessful because the persistent buggers quickly mutate and sidestep new barriers. We can't give up, though. Spam costs the country billions of dollars in lost productivity yearly, and, left untamed, costs will mushroom.
As TheWashington Post recently reported, three new spam-fighting initiatives are being considered:
1. A Senate bill passed last week would attempt to flag and prevent unwanted email messages from being sent, using screening and other technology to halt spam in its tracks.
Most spam software currently works this way, filtering out suspect messages. Problem is, new forms of spam get through using fake email addresses and other tricks, and sometimes wanted email is filtered out, too. Plus, seeing how the government's national Do Not Call registry is stalling, Spam victims should not expect congressional help anytime soon.
2. Internet bigwigs continue to devote money and resources to fight spam, but now they're working together more than ever.
3. The Network Advertising Initiative, a consortium of bulk emailing firms, has a plan called "Project Lumos," which would rely on bulk emailers to voluntarily adopt standards to identify their messages as solicitations.
Through this and other requirements, bulk emailers could become certified and then, working with the Internet companies listed above, registered email could be let through while uncertified ones are killed. To be certified, mailers would need to make it easy to unsubscribe, among other consumer-friendly rules. This is a way to allow for mass e-marketing but "clean it up." One trouble is, the problem spammers likely have little desire to be certified and will keep seeking work-arounds to any filters.
The ultimate issue is that spam works. People buy from email offers every day. As long as this is the case, spammers will fight for survival. At least it's good to know others are working to fight it, reduce it, or regulate it.