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Internet

Antispammers going on "strike"

A group of people who cancel spam messages in Net bulletin boards are stopping in an effort to get ISPs to take action.

    Antispammers are mad as hell, and they're going on strike.

    A cadre of people who spend hours of their own time every day ridding the Internet's bulletin boards of thousands of commercial advertisements are tired of cleaning up after the Net's growing mess. And starting today, they say they are not going to do it anymore.

    If the strike--expected to last a few weeks--works as planned, Usenet newsgroups could be so flooded with spam that they will be virtually unusable.

    The antispammers are hoping that problem will spur Internet service providers and others who control the floodgates for newsgroups to take some action against the steadily increasing tide of newsgroup spam.

    The people calling for the "moratorium" make up the same group of just under a dozen antispammers who have used so-called Usenet Death Penalties to force several ISPs to stop allowing their customers to flood Usenet with spam.

    But the problem is a lot bigger than one or two ISPs, according to the group.

    Antispammer Chris Lewis cited statistics showing just how clogged Usenet has become with spam in a posting to "news.admin.net-abuse.usenet" calling for the moratorium.

    Forty percent of all Usenet traffic is spam, he said. Another 40 percent of the traffic is composed of messages issued by the antispammers to cancel the spam. That leaves only 20 percent of traffic as non-spam-related.

    "The house is on fire," said Rick Buchanan, who spends anywhere from one to four hours per day canceling the messages. "Spammers are trying to burn Usenet."

    But, he added, "We're doing as much water damage putting out the fire as the spammers. The cure is starting to become a problem in itself. It's an arms race that's gotten out of hand and other solutions are needed."

    Buchanan and others participating in the moratorium want ISPs to take a more active role in stopping spam before it hits the newsgroups, by using such methods as antispam filters.

    With so many people taking care of the problem for them, the ISPs have had no incentive to do more to stop spam, Buchanan said.

    "We're hiding the problem," he said. "We're sweeping up their garbage. We think they should see the heat. They should get the complaints. They should do something about it."

    Buchanan added that with the exception of a few, the moratorium is being backed by most of the major antispammers, who communicate largely though newsgroups and email lists.

    "It's time to demonstrate in inarguable terms what Usenet is facing, and force the hands of ISPs," Lewis wrote. "It's like trench warfare: Years of moving the line back and forth a few yards, and what do we have to show for it? A tremendous waste of resources and no significant progress towards ending the war."

    Starting today, however, the war will escalate to a new level and perhaps lead to results. "For an indefinite period after this date, no spam cancels should be issued. You'll notice that we said 'indefinite period.' This is because we don't want ISPs to implement short-term solutions," he added.

    IF nothing else, the moratorium, "is certainly going to be interesting," Buchanan said. But, he added, "if nothing happens, if the system breaks down, we may just have to give up on it."