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reducing spam (not just filtering it)

paul wheaton

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20965

All of my e-mail is routed to my yahoo account which does a fair job of filtering the spam. My "bulk" box gets about 100 to 200 spams a day. My regular e-mail gets about 20 spams a day. Considering how much e-mail I do, and how my e-mail address is plastered in so many places, I'm surprised that it isn't more.
I still read the spam titles everyday. About one e-mail a day makes it into the spam box that should not have gone there.
I would like to reduce the amount of spam I get. In other words, I want them to stop sending it to me.
A lot of the spammers say something like "If you don't want our nasty spam, click here..." I've never clicked, thinking that this would verify my e-mail address and then I would get ten times more spam.
I live in washington state where there are laws against spam where people are actually pursuing spammers.
I'm wondering if I should attempt to actually respond with some canned message saying "don't e-mail me again!" maybe combined with information about how what they are doing is illegal and a response would give me the license to sue them.
So, anybody tried to reduce spam by writing to these guys?

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Randall Twede
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 21, 2000
Posts: 4351

no, but ive read it is best not to reply. i used to block them, but i found out hotmail has a limit on how many can be blocked and now it just lets me delete them.
i expect the feds will step in soon with some sort of legislation.

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Phil Chuang
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 15, 2003
Posts: 251
You can't do this everywhere, but whenever I can, I post my email address with HTML codes, ie the #&123; kind of thing. It renders properly in browsers, but most dumb spam harvesters are out of luck. Of course, it'd only take a small bit of code for them to interpret it, but most don't seem to.
As far as it's effectiveness, I can't really tell yet, since I've only been doing this for a few months.
paul wheaton

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20965

So the consensus is: don't try to reduce the e-mail coming to you. You'll only make it worse.
Anybody disagree?
Jeanne Boyarsky
author & internet detective

Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 33102

Originally posted by Paul Wheaton:
So the consensus is: don't try to reduce the e-mail coming to you. You'll only make it worse.
Anybody disagree?

I agree that you shouldn't try to reduce the amount of spam coming to you if you define spam as junk from pseduo anonymous senders (viagra, scams, ...)
However, many people lump mail from legitimate companies as spam. Regardless of whether it is spam or not, this is mail that it is ok to unsubscribe to. If you do business with a place once, they are legally allowed to send you mail unless you tell them not to. (it's polite to let you opt-out when making the transaction) So if you get junk mail from places like yahoo, amazon, the place you bought ink from once, ... by all means - opt out!

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Gregg Bolinger
GenRocket Founder
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 15302

I'm wondering if I should attempt to actually respond with some canned message saying "don't e-mail me again!" maybe combined with information about how what they are doing is illegal and a response would give me the license to sue them.
The spammers will probably never see this and it would be pointless for you to take even 5 seconds to do this. Not to mention the fact they they REALLY have your Email address now.
And don't ever click that link at the bottom. Though you may be removed from 1 list, it will probably add you to 100 more in the process.
Spam sucks. I get so much of it at work. We can't even block it all because the spammers change their domains so much. I get 10 E-mail from 10 different people and it is the exact same ad.

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Mark Herschberg

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
I used to be a big fan of legislation, "we'll just make a law to prevent people form doing it." That rarely works. Most of the time there are loopholes and even when not, there are enough ways to avoid detection making the law medicore at best.
My motto the last few years has been "goal alignment." I can't stop spam by myself. I need to convince others to do it, too. Lobbying elected officials doesn't count as goal alignment. Making people and corporations realize that it is in their (economic) interest to stop spam, does count. We will eventually stop spam, if only because the ISPs don't want it--not out of providing customer services, but rather because of reducing their own costs.
My best idea to date is to use micropayments. We all set up an escrow account with our ISPs. When you email me, you put 1/10 of a penny into escrow, and if your email is spam, I can take your money but flaggin it within 48 hours. Even if I was malicious, and always took your money, it hard costs you anything, and eventually you simply stop emailing me. But a spammer pays 1/10 of a penny times millions. It adds up quickly. Also, since most people don't keep more then $10 in their accounts (I never have more then 50 emails outstanding in a 48 hour period), so even if there's a hiccup in the scheme, I can't lose much money. Corporatations which send to lare lists need to keep more money in escrow.
This does require a secure email system with integrated micropayments. There would be atransitional period where you'll get spam because you still need to check email from friends not-yet using this new protocol. But in the long run, this can work.
As for more immediate solutions, I fight fire with fire. A lot of spam gives a website and that website has an email address on it and/or a place to sign up. I take two spam sites and submit their email addresses to each other.
This last idea comes from a recommendation on dealing with junk mail. Whenever you get a piece of junk mail with a postage paid return envelop, be sure to send it back to them. (I like to swap contents, so I send company A's form to company B, and visa versa.) This increased thier mailing costs and discourages them--plus you feel a lot better. :-)
Ilja Preuss

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 14112
You can also try if you find it worth the hassle.
I am using K9 (a Freeware Windows Email Proxy) to filter spam since a week and it works really well - much better than the one you get with my german email provider. Mozzilla is also known to have a very good filter.

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Jeroen Wenting
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Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
Run your own SMTP server and block *.ru, *.cn, *.kr, *.tw, *.br, *.ar, *.yahoo, *.earthlink, *.aol, *.hotmail and *%%* (while adding some negations for people you know on those TLDs and domains).
Doing that descreased the number of spam I get from around a thousand a week to under a hundred.
If some legitimate mail gets lost in the process that's bad but people I know generally have other means to communicate with me to let me know what address to add to my whitelist.
Escrow systems won't work. What if my ISP doesn't talk to your ISP or doesn't agree to work on implementing such a system at all?
We won't be able to exchange mail...
You'd basically throw the internet email system back to the postal services such as they were in the 18th century with each ISP representing a single city in that time.
Mail services typically operated over short distances (within an ISP) only, and mail for outside that area had to wait for passing travellers going in the general direction to take with them.

Steve Fahlbusch

Joined: Sep 18, 2000
Posts: 601

Actually escrows have a quite good chance of working.
The IPS are dying for the opportunity to have the ability to perform accounting on the little packets that flow by, and thus charging back the various services to the various users (ie: why we still don't have multicast).
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
Oh, it WILL work within a single ISP.
What I am worried about is getting it to work across ISPs, especially if they're not in the same country.
There are enough problems getting TelCos to connect to each others' networks without horrendous surcharges.
You'd not want to pay $1 for each message you send to someone subscribing to the services of another ISP would you?
That's pretty much the situation with international phonecalls today (and in countries with several telephone networks with calls inside the country as well).
Getting worse, when calling a mobile phone the receiver has to pay if he's not operating on his own network (roaming charges). I'm sure ISPs could think of something similar for email charging as well, having the receiver pay for each incoming message from outside their own network as well as charging the sender for the privilege of sending a message to their network.
It would stop spam for a while (or at least slow it down) but it would at the same time kill mailing lists and pretty much kill off email communication as a whole faster than spam is doing it.
I agree. Here's the link:
subject: reducing spam (not just filtering it)
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