Spam's a different beast than snail

2 min read
In response to the Perspectives column written by Charles Cooper, "":

I am writing in reply to your article on e-postage. What I have seen repeatedly in articles both online and offline is that the Internet is the same as the real world. Many people in the Internet community argue that it is not.

The reality is that the Internet shares many of the aspects of the real world while possessing many of the aspects that are truly unique.

Many of these have direct relevance on the spam problem. Thinking that e-postage will solve the problem rises from the analogy between the real world snail mail system and e-mail. Yet in the real world do we find post offices hijacked and malicious mail being dumped into them? Do we find postmasters being bribed to allow junk mail through? Do the postal authorities posses enough money to prosecute fraud in the mail system?

Yes, in the e-mail system we find all of that: zombie computers and open relays, "pink contracts" and lack of money for the FTC to enforce existing fraud regulations. There are many issues with e-postage that will not apply to the snail-mail system because of these differences:

But who will watch the watchers that issue the postage, deployment, etc.?

There is also a very crucial point--the very nature of the Internet is cheap communication. It would be wrong to attack the spam problem solely from the economic angle.

There are many real world measures that can be taken which are not technical, that can help to improve the situation just like in the snail mail system: better education for end users on security, much better cooperation among Internet service providers, more money for the Federal Trade Commission, a central coordination center such as Incidents.org, tracing the spammers via money, etc. All of these can make a world of difference without changing the Internet.

The two systems are fundamentally different but yet the same. Therefore, we must think outside the box--outside the box of all existing systems since the Internet is very unique. Yet we must not forget that the Internet is a crooked mirror of our own society--reflecting in abnormal proportions the very nature of human beings.

Yakov Shafranovich