Heavy Lifting - thoughts and web finds by an economist
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Monday, April 12, 2004


Bad news on the spamming front...


Last week I had linked to the story of an Internet cafe sysadmin who had contributed to the arrest of a spammer. The CAN-SPAM act of 2003 requires unsolicited commercial email to be identified as such, although it is rarely done to date. Many spam filters are marketed but there are problems with Type I and Type II errors, e.g., wrongly sorting desirable email as Spam and failing to sort an unwanted email as Spam.

We have all likely noticed the variety of ways that spammers have begun spelling vi@gra and ci@lis, ostensibly to get around Spam filters. However, if you expect the Spam filters to catch up with the funny spelling of drug names, guess again. There are approximately 600,426,974,379,824,381,952 ways to spell "viagra."

Nevertheless, I don't understand the "funny spelling" trend because computer users who have installed Spam filters have signalled they are very unlikely to respond to Spam. This is why I contend that Spam is not necessarily intended for the end user but may intended to clog up computer networks - in other words, Spam is more juvenile yet expensive prank rather than a means of making money (that is just speculation, I have no proof).

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