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Stop Junk Email
Stop Junk Email
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JCR Design and Consulting
It's irritating. It's rude. It's stupid. In short, it's a Really Bad Idea.
Let's put an end to Junk Email right now.
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Lately I have been getting more and more unsolicited commercial email ("Junk email"). And, frankly, I'm damn sick of it.
This page is primarily directed at the victims of junk email, which generally means recipients, although junk emailers certainly cause systems operators and others big headaches, as well. Our goal is to eliminate all junk email.
To accomplish this goal, we will attempt to teach victims and potential victims (that's everyone with an email address) the most effective methods of prevention and retribution. We also hope to get current and potential junk emailers to see the error of their ways by making them see it from the victim's point of view, and getting them to understand why postage-due marketing isn't very effective.
If reports on the Net and my own mailbox are any indication, junk email is increasing dramatically. The reason it is growing in popularity among advertisers seems to be combination of
The only effective strategy to combat junk email, therefore, is to lessen or mitigate these three factors.
The first factor is only going to get worse, and the only way to improve it is to increase understanding along with the inevitable increase in awareness. To this end, we should all try to correct any misperceptions about the function or culture of the Net that we see in the media, via letters to the editor, open debate, etc.
The second factor, the trendiness of the Net as a commercial medium, is probably hardest to mitigate. But it will also probably fade on its own over the next couple of years, as more people get on the Net and the novelty wears off. The Future of Net commerce is beyond the scope of this document, but suffice it to say that the Net will soon be as ubiquitous as the telephone, and we don't really distinguish "telephone commerce" from other types. It's just another method of conducting business.
The third factor, the inexpensiveness of junk email, is where we can have the most effect. Until the cost burden of junk email an be shifted back to the advertisers, junk email will flourish.
Adding cost to the advertiser's end of the equation must be our primary focus.
The truth is, there's not a heck of a lot you can do (without seriously cramping your net.style) to prevent people from getting your address and sending you junk email.
I want to say up front that I don't believe in the "do-not-mail list" model of preventing junk email, mostly because it shifts the burden to the recipient, doesn't actually work, and most importantly, because it legitimizes the idea of junk email as acceptable. I really can't, in good conscience, recommend something that, in the long run, is going to make the problem worse.
There are some 6.5 million potential junk email victims on America Online, and AOL email management tools are particularly cumbersome, making it that more annoying. On the plus side, due to customer complaints, AOL has really gone to bat against junk email.
I used to get a lot of junk email sent to my America Online account, even though I never posted news or sent mail from there. Sometimes the mail originates from within AOL, but surprisingly, it mostly comes from outside. I believe this is because junk emailers use those ever-spiffy free AOL diskettes to abuse the Member Profile Search services and use it to generate a mailing list of people who have similar interests, (or rather, who have the same key words in their member profiles--what does a junk emailer care if the interests really match?). Then they use the list to feed a junk-email script on a Unix system. I deleted my already minimal member profile to see if it would decrease junk mail to that account. If you are an AOL member, you can do the same by selecting "Member Directory" from the "Members" menu, and then hit the "Delete Your Profile" option.
I was still getting loads of junk email there (It's probably too late if you are already on their lists), so I also recently completely blocked all email from my AOL address (which I don't use for email anyway). I had enough trouble keeping up with the junk email in my regular mailbox. To reject all mail addressed to your AOL account, you need to sign on under your master screen name (the one you created when you first opened the account) and go to keyword "Mail Controls=2E" For each screen name on the account, you have the option to block all mail, block all mail that originates from addresses or hosts you specify in a list, or only allow mail from addresses in that list. Obviously, if you want to receive legitimate email at your America Online account, blocking all mail is not an option.
Now that the court injunction has been lifted (see news), AOL has implemented PreferredMail, which blocks mail from a "regularly updated" list of known junk email sites. AOL's press release says that "the sites on the PreferredMail list have consistently sent large volumes of unsolicited junk e-mail and have been the subject of numerous member complaints over a short period of time."You don't need to do anything to have this feature turned on--it is enabled on all accounts by default. Note that this is only going to protect you from known junk emailer addresses--it can't stop junk mail from new sites, nor junk mail forged cleverly to look like it came from a different site. AOL users should forward any junk email they receive to screen name TOSemail1 (or TOSemail2 if mailbox TOSemail1 is full). If you want to receive mail from those sites (maybe you don't trust AOL's judgement, or you are just sick and love junk email, I don't know) you can go to keyword "PreferredMail" to turn it off.
If you subscribe to automated mailing lists (LISTSERV, LISTPROCessor, etc.), you should be aware of the ability of junk emailers to acquire your email address from these sources, and what you can do to prevent it.
Most mailing list software allows pretty much anyone to issue a command by mail to display the names and email addresses of all subscribers to that list! Since the mailing list administrator removes bad addresses in response to bounce notifications, the address list contains all valid addresses--a gold mine for junk emailers. With most mailing-list software, you can send a command to prevent your address from appearing on these lists. I recommend doing this for all mailing lists you subscribe to. The method to accomplish this depends on the type of mailing-list software. When you originally subscribed to a mailing list, you got a message from the server that summarized commands gave instructions for getting off the list and changing options. This message should tell you on what kind of software the list is running.
Important: Note that the address you send these commands to is not the address you to which you send messages for the list. It is the address where you originally sent your "Subscribe" command.
If your mailing list software is LISTSERV, anyone who signs up to the list can issue a REView command to display the names and email addresses of all subscribers to that list. If you want to test this, send an email message to the LISTSERV command processor (again, not the address where you send messages to the list for distribution) with only this command in the body text: REVIEW
To prevent your name and email address from appearing, send a message to the LISTSERV command address (the same address you sent the "SUBSCRIBE" command to) with this command in the body of the message:
SET listname CONCEALIf for any reason you change your mind and want you name and email address to be available to the REView command, send SET listname NOCONCEAL. Note that a complete list of members is always given to list owners and LISTSERV administrators regardless of this option.
If your mailing list software is ListProcessor, aka LISTPROC, a similar command for listing subscribers is available, in the form REView list-name SUBscribers (obviously, you put the name of the mailing list in place of "list-name"). To suppress your name, you need to send an email message to the ListProcessor command address (again, not the address where you send messages to the list for distribution) with this command in the body text:
SET list-name CONceal YES
Obviously, put the name of the list to which you are subscribed where the words "list-name" appear above (When you subscribed, you sent the either the command SUBscribe list-name your-name or JOIn list-name your-name.) Use the SET list-name CONceal NO if you want to make your name and address available again.
The Majordomo mailing-list software uses the who listname command to list the subscribers of a mailing list. Unfortunately, there is no way for an individual user to suppress display of their email address.
Majordomo supports "public" and "private" lists; "private" lists don't respond to the who command. So, if the who command sent to the Majordomo command processor works (again, not the address where you send messages to the list for distribution), you need to get the administrator to change the list from "public" to "private." (In fact, the administrator needs to have direct access to the system where Majordomo is running.)
Every time you post a message to Usenet, you are making your email address available to everyone else on Usenet. It is trivial for a junk emailer or mailing-list vendor to get a news feed, and then grab several thousands of email address from the Usenet news headers.
Frankly, there's not a heck of a lot you can do about it. Your only option is to not put your real email address in you news reading software. Of course, entering a bogus address prevents people from responding to your posts via email, severely crippling communications (one more irritating effect of junk email). Some usenet users have taken to entering their address as user[at]host.com or other similar variations, which should fool automated address slurpers, but allow humans to respond by email after manually editing the return address.
First of all, if you have any ideas to improve this page and/or help deal with junk email, by all means send them in.
Secondly, don't let junk email go unpunished. If you just delete it and don't complain, your silence indicates acceptance. The only way to stop junk email is to change the situation so that it is no longer worthwhile to send junk email. To accomplish this, you must take action.
Thirdly, make your voice heard via the Action Items
Finally, feel free to copy the icons below for use on your own web pages. I'd appreciate an acknowledgement with a link back to this page, and an email letting me know you used a logo and where. Other than that, I currently have no other restrictions on their Internet use because I want the Stop Junk Email message disseminated as widely as possible. However, I still retain the copyright on these images, and I reserve the legal right to change this usage policy in the future if I feel it is being abused--for example, if a blatant junk emailer used a logo on their site in an effort to disguise their true intentions. If you want to use these logos in media other than the Web (including but not limited to print, television, CD-ROM, etc.) you need to get my permission first.
NoJunkEmailStatSmall.gif (GIF format, 90 by 72 pixels, about 12K)
NoJunkEmailStat.gif (GIF format, 250 by 200 pixels, about 18K)
NoJunkEmailSmall.gif (Animated GIF format, loops forever, 90 by 72 pixels, about 17K)
NoJunkEmail.gif (Animated GIF format, two loops, 250 by 200 pixels, about 55K)
<A HREF="#www.mcs.net/~jcr/junkemail.html"> <IMG SRC="NoJunkEmailSmall.gif" ALT="Stop Junk Email Logo" WIDTH="90" HEIGHT="72"> Stop Junk Email Now</A>
Or you could just refer to these icons on my server directly from your page, as in:
<A HREF="#www.mcs.net/~jcr/junkemail.html"> <IMG SRC="#www.mcs.net/~jcr/NoJunkEmailSmall.gif" ALT="Stop Junk Email Logo" WIDTH="90" HEIGHT="72"> Stop Junk Email Now</A>
Below are sites I am aware of which have linked to the Campaign to Stop Junk Email home page, and/or are displaying the "No Junk Email" badge of honor=2E If I missed your site, let me know and I will add it. I encourage free use of the "No Junk Email" logo on the web as long as you provide credit via a link back to this page (see terms above--I do still retain the copyright). I assume that a site displaying the logo agrees with what they find here, but this does not necessarily mean that I agree with (or am even aware of) all opinions found at these sites. See legal disclaimers.
Sunday, January 5, 1997
at 11:31 AM by JCR
Copyright ©1997 John C. Rivard.
All Rights Reserved.
Click here for legal info.
Last-modified: Sat, 11 Jan 1997 21:10:50 GMT
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