1997-05-21 - Re: Spam IS Free Speech

Header Data

From: John Deters <jad@dsddhc.com>
To: Ross Wright <paul@fatmans.demon.co.uk>
Message Hash: 4bf9801551de11e38944813a8ee0cf5df61bf2fc68a4e3e27eb1fefad4049fd6
Message ID: <>
Reply To: <199705150640.XAA07531@adnetsol.adnetsol.com>
UTC Datetime: 1997-05-21 19:58:58 UTC
Raw Date: Thu, 22 May 1997 03:58:58 +0800

Raw message

From: John Deters <jad@dsddhc.com>
Date: Thu, 22 May 1997 03:58:58 +0800
To: Ross Wright <paul@fatmans.demon.co.uk>
Subject: Re: Spam IS Free Speech
In-Reply-To: <199705150640.XAA07531@adnetsol.adnetsol.com>
Message-ID: <>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

At 05:51 PM 5/15/97 +0000, Paul Bradley <paul@fatmans.demon.co.uk> wrote:
>> > > You can not retaliate against free
>> > > speech, Rick.  That's a bad thing, plain and simple, black and
>> > > white.
>Retaliation by force against speech is wrong, more speech is not 
>unethical. It might be unpleasant, but not wrong.
>> No shit, you just can't send 10,000 megs of info in retaliation for a 
>> few bits.  Really, there's no call for that.  It's wrong. 
>To make a brief analogy: Say you are a market researcher, and you 
>approach me in the street and ask for some time to answer your questions, 
>I do not commit any ethical wrongdoing if I stand there and scream at you 
>for several minutes. If I physically attack you I commit a crime. 
>All internet traffic is speech, including syn-ack flood attacks and any 
>other denial of service attempt. This is plain and simple, we have to 
>find technological means of thwarting these attacks, they are not 
>unethical, unpleasant yes, immoral no. 

In the case of shrieking at the researcher, the researcher can simply walk
away.  In the case of a network connection, the ISP cannot simply unplug.

>> >   It costs me money to download unwanted spam. What's this "free"
>> > bullshit?
>> What?  Like 80 cents per gig?  Please a bit here and a byte there 
>> isn't going to break anyone.  Could someone do the math?
>I won`t do the math but the point is it "costs" you energy to listen to 
>someone speaking in the street, sure, it is a very small amount, but it 
>does cost energy from a strict biological point of view.
>This does not lead me to believe any crime is commited by someone 
>speaking to, or at me.

No, spam DOES cost the victim.  I'm not saying that the victim is the spam
recipient.  Think of the ISPs that are the victims of Spamford's
CyberPromotions.  Yes, victims.  Their entire businesses consist of keeping
wires from one side of routers connected to the internet while the wires on
the other side attach to modems and a handful of host computers to serve
mail, news, etc.  When Spamford sends out his 15000 messages, he is denying
the ISPs the bandwidth, CPU and disk storage they are paying for.  By
filling the ISP's drives, he is also denying every customer of those ISPs
from receiving incoming email.

Here's Spamford's M.O., to those of you unfamiliar with how CyberPromo
Makes Money Fast:

1.  Advertise to people that they can send out bulk e-mail for a fixed cost.

2.  Ethically-challenged persons who dream of Making Money Fast draft their
Ponzi schemes, and send them, along with a certain amount of very
non-refundable money, to CyberPromo.

3.  CyberPromo sends out the spam by routing it through sendmail demons
running on other peoples' (the victims') machines.

4.  The complaints and threats of lawsuits land squarely on the shoulders
of the persons unfortunate enough to be running the sendmails.  It is,
after all, their machine which is the origin of the spam.  Just look in the

5.  The original ethically-challenged persons never see responses to their
original paid-for spam; CyberPromo knows this from the get-go but certainly
won't inform the spammers of this.

6.  When confronted with evidence of the Ponzi schemes by the sendmail
operator, Mr. Wallace replies: "Shame on those nasty users, I'll terminate
their accounts."

7.  Spamford continues to route other spam through the hapless sendmail
operators -- his dozens of registered domains make it extremely tough to
prevent source blocking.

8.  The FBI comes to visit the victimized sendmail operator, investigating
*them* for running pyramid scams.

This situation is the exact situation that has entangled my ISP for the
last couple of months.

Are you telling me that being subjected to a jack-boot investigation for
running pyramid schemes *and* having your customers leave because they
can't get mail services is a reasonable expense to bear because of
Spamford's "right to free speech"?  Spamford's speech (or that of his
"customers") isn't even directed at the sendmail operator or his customers.
 The sendmail operator above is merely being used by Spamford as a
megaphone to broadcast the message of spam to other people (who really
don't want it, either, but that's beside the point.)

It's no longer the same as shouting down the marketing researcher.  

What Spamford has done is to see me walking down the sidewalk carrying a
megaphone, and grab me and tell me that I must stand there and hold my
megaphone in front of some spammer's mouth while the spammer shouts at a
crowd of people who don't want to hear him.  All the while, you stand there
next to Spamford and claim that I must continue to hold my megaphone for
the spammer because it's his "right to free speech", and the only way to
avoid it is to turn my megaphone off, denying me the ability to allow
anyone else to use my megaphone.

The icing on this cake is that if the spammer starts announcing "Make Money
Fast" over my megaphone, the FBI will come and investigate ME because I'm
the one holding the megaphone!

Free speech is NOT the subject here.  My right to walk down the street with
my (lawfully registered) megaphone has been usurped by a thug.  You're
telling me that every megaphone owner has a *duty* to hold it in front of
every spammer's
mouth.  Remember, these are finite megaphones.  They have batteries that
need replacing, and the owners are stuck standing there holding them while
the spammers speak as long as they want.  Sorry, but those megaphone owners
may have other things to do with their megaphones and their time.  You're
confusing "the right to free speech" with "the right to kidnap megaphone

In this particular case, of course, there was a technical solution:
install a sendmail to prevent routing of incoming mail.  ISPs and
corporations around the globe will need this new hardened sendmail to keep
the spammers away.  Restricting the speech they carry.  Turning off the

Spam is interfering with the *real* victim's (the sendmail operator's)
ability to provide customer service; in a very real and fiscally damaging
way.  It's also restricting the traffic he can carry to only that speech
originating from
his domain.  His right to carry YOUR speech has been restricted by his
technical solution to keep his machine alive.

What is ultimately likely to happen, however, is that Mr. Wallace will be
prosecuted under existing laws for swindling the original MMF spammers.
He's profiting by charging them to steal resources from ISPs.  He *might*
be able to avoid prosecution by putting a "warning sticker" on his
advertising saying something to the effect that, "if you send a Make Money
Fast scam out, the jack-booted thugs will come and haul you away faster
than I can send out your e-mails."  But then he'd have no business at all!

I'm not trying to claim that Mr. Wallace does or does not have the right to
speak to us.  I simply want to point out that there is real monetary loss
to the real victims of his spamming.

J. Deters "Don't think of Windows programs as spaghetti code.  Think
          of them as 'Long sticky pasta objects in OLE sauce'."
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