Discussion Questions

  1. What is spamming?

  2. What's wrong with spamming?

    • 8 reasons why not to spam.
      • Inappropriate to the culture of the internet.
      • Harmful to doing legitimate business over the net.
      • The consumer pays for the costs of the spams, 'Postage-Due Marketing'.
  3. Should the Government ban spamming?

    • Wired magazine analyzes a spammer's activities. (Search on 'Protection Act')
      • U.S. Code 47 says it's illegal to send commercial solicitations to a facsimile machine, which is defined as any machine that connects to a telephone line and can render paper.
      • Edward Markey(D-Massachusetts), from House Telecommunications Subcommittee is developing model legislation prohibiting unsolicited commercial e-mail.
      • Increased legislation on the Net is the wrong way to protect it.
      • This goes against the Net's freedom from bureacracy and regulation.
    • U.S. Code 47 -- Title 47, Section 227 of the United States Code
  4. Issues raised by the Canter & Siegel case.

    • Canter and Siegel are two ruthless spammers?
    • Issues raised by the case.
      • C&S claim that they didn't break the law, netiquette is an informal set of rules. Should the Usenet be used for advertising?
        • Information about the Usenet.
        • Consumer pays for advertising, Postage-Due Marketing.
          • In real world, adverisers bear cost of distributing messages to consumer.
          • In online world, advertisers and consumer bear cost.
          • Would you accept a collect call from a telemarketer?
        • A spammer in the networks -- "Someone may tell you that in order to be a good Net 'citizen', you must follow the rules of Cyberspace community. Don't listen", C&S advise. "The only laws and rules with which you should concern yourself are those passed by the country, state, and city in which you truly live. The only ethics you should adopt as you pursue wealth on the (information superhighway) are those dictated by the religious faith you have chosen to follow and your own good conscience."
        • Spamming is not an ideal way to target people
          • The net has had a long tradition of non-commercialism, ever since its founding days as ARPAnet.
          • The net isn't free. Bandwidth and disk space cost money.
          • People in newsgroups get annoyed when their topic is not discussed.
        • Canter & Siegel's defense.
            • National Science Foundation lifted ban on advertising on the Usenet, so it is permitted.
            • President and Vice President are encouraging commercialization of the Internet.
            • The annoyance and waste of bandwidth of the posts does not constiture a breach of ethics.
            • A lot of business was received, so not everyone was annoyed by the posts.
            • The individuals engaged in guerrilla tactics are unethical.
            • The spams are comparable to t.v. commercials. With spams, users pay the Service Provider per message. With commercials, the viewer pays for elcetricity during the commercial's air time.
          • Canter and Siegal speak.
            • It wasn't illegal.
            • If they hadn't done it, someone else would have.
      • Is there a responsible way to advertise on the Internet?
        • How to advertise on the Internet.
          • Use appropriate newsgroups related to your topic.
          • Go to the *.forsale, *.marketplace, etc. newsgroups to place advertisements.
          • There are specific news groups for marketing goods and services.
          • Set up your own web site.
  5. Are the electronic countermeasures to spamming justified?

    • Site kill files.
      • The Net strikes back with site kill files.
        • Messages from a specific person can be discarded before viewing.
        • Better than guerilla tactics, like mail bombs.
    • Cancelbots
    •  -- Discussion Question
      • Spams deemed wasteful enough are cancelled.
      • They do not cancel based on content, only quantity.
      • Cancelbots often remain anonymous.

    • Who gets to decide which messages are spam?
      • Who is CancelMoose?
        • "I am doing this becuase of the danger that spamming represents and the high net approval of such actions."
        • "..there is substancial agreement among the Usenet administrators that have contributed to the debate that these actions are necessary."
        • The check on his judgement comes from majority opinions posted on news.admin.misc.
    • Mailbombs
      • Advantage is that the system administrator will be forced to acknowledge the problem, and gives them a reason to close the spammer's account.
      • Disadvantages include:
        • forgery is easy
        • users who share the same ISP(Internet Service Provider) may be innocent victims
        • increases bandwidth on the net as a whole
      • Tips on recycling, mail bombing, outlawing junk e-mail, tools available
  6. Do anti-spamming techniques limit free speech?

    • Legal analysis of C&S
      • Free speech does not mean free access.
    • Conversation with a Cancelbot
      • To cancel messages that are only annoying is censorship, which I am strongly against.
      • The decision to cancel messages is based on machine criteria, not a human one.
    • Spamming and Usenet culture
      • Spams are cancelled based on the fact that they are spams, not their content.
      • Any system like Usenet, which gives freedom and a large degree of trust to its users, runs the risk of attracting exploitation; but a system of hard rules runs a different risk, that of stifling free discussion.
    • Victim of Cancelbot?
      • This is not a democratic process in which newsgroup readers are invited to participate.
      • It doesn't matter if the newsgroup has no objection to seeing the spam post.
    • Squelched by Net police? -- Discussion Question
      • Usenet is monitored by "control freaks".
      • Anything is spam, if they call it spam.
      • There are 11,413 newsgroups, 27 is a low number of messages to be considered spam.
      • Are the niceties of the netiquette more important that the human rights of the terminally ill?

    Discussion Questions

    Spamming on the Internet

    This discussion is to consider the ethical and legal implications of spamming and other advertising on the Internet.
    1. What is the risk of untrammeled spamming on Usenet newsgroups? Consider that disk space is cheaper than it used to be and that users can create "kill" files to hide messages from unwanted sources or on unwanted topics.
    2. What is the risk of indiscriminate advertising on the Internet? Consider that if people can make money by actions that others deem intrusive, they may be willing to continue their practices despite massive protests by Internet users. Look at the articl es on Internet advertising, especially the article on the company selling lists of people who post to newsgroups.
    3. Does the risk of spamming or other advertising on the Internet call for new laws or government regulations?
    4. What ethical guidelines should be followed by companies that advertise on the Internet? (Please limit your answer to issues that specific to the Internet; avoid saying things like, "no intentionally misleading advertising.)
    5. What about the ethics of using the word "spam" (a trade name of Hormel) to describe, well, spamming? ("Spamming" is not quite the same as crossposting; did you discover why in the readings?)

    Responding to spamming

    This discussion is to consider what action system administrators and others should take in response to spamming.
    1. Should system administrators and Internet service providers attempt to prevent their users from spamming? If so, how should they go about it?
    2. What should system administrators do if one of their users nevertheless spams? Is cutting off service, as Internet Direct did to Canter and Siegel, a reasonable response?
    3. Do system administrators need any new legal protection in dealing with spammers?
    4. What about individual users? Should they take action against spammers? How ethical are the following reactions: flaming, e-mail bombs, fax attacks, autodialers?
    5. Are users who try to deter spam attacks public-spirited 'net citizens or vigilantes?

    Cancelbolts - spam removers.

    This discussion is to consider the ethics of "cancelbots" that remove spam (and possibly other postings) from the Internet. In preparation for your post, read the articles on cancelbots on this week's Web page.s the risk of spamming or other advertising on the Internet call
    1. Are programmers who write cancelbots doing the 'net a service or a disservice?
    2. Analyze cancelbots according to utilitarian and/or deontological approaches to ethical theory. Is writing a cancelbot more ethical than writing a virus? Why or why not?
    3. One of the biggest problems with viruses is that they can easily get out of control. Is the same true of cancelbots?
    4. What guidelines, if any, for cancelbots will ensure their ethical use? What kind of enforcement, if any, should be pursued to assure that these guidelines are followed?
    5. Does the presence of cancelbots call for changes in system software? If so, how urgently?