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Fighting Fire With Fire Won't Douse The Spam Fire
SCAMS SPECIAL INVESTIGATION SERIES

By Stephen Brennan
Wednesday, January 5, 2005; 6:30pm EST


Fighting Fire With Fire Won't Douse The Fire by Stephen Brennan In the last few weeks, I have noticed an increase in tools or methods devised exclusively to fight the Spam fight. I applaud the originators ideals and their ingenuity, but I must voice my concern about the way in which such concepts can often backfire, sometimes in the nastiest of ways. I abhor spam. I hate it with a vengeance and would do ALMOST anything to rid the Internet of it entirely. The worldwide financial consequences alone run into billions of dollars annually.

It is comparable to the disruption that the propagation of viruses causes and is responsible for creating a completely independent niche market for the sale of tools and software programs designed simply to combat it. Although, I would imagine that even those engaged in this area of marketing would also welcome it's demise, however unlikely it might seem at the moment. The latest is a web page that we are all being asked to link to which, as I understand it, will result in the email addresses listed on that page, which are 'known' spam originating addresses, being inundated with so much spam, generated by their own 'spiders' (entities which crawl the Net looking for email addresses) that their data will be effectively useless due to the spider being effectively sent on an endless 'loop'.

A simple but brilliant little idea - But is it safe? What if an innocent email address should find it's way onto that web page? What if one is maliciously placed there? Does that email address get caught up in the vicious circle of unsolicited email? Maybe not, but even if the method precludes this particular 'backfire', more to the point, is it right to spam the 'spammer'? If you rob a thief, doesn't that make YOU a thief too, regardless? The fact remains also, there hasn't been a means of stopping spammers that has worked yet.

Will they be somehow able to turn this idea around and use it against the Internet population? I can understand the anger, frustration and the sometimes, sheer desperation that some may feel after having been an especially badly 'bashed' spam victim, but doesn't this type of 'payback' solution smack of 'Internet vigilantism' or 'taking the law into one's own hands' (something that is wrong and dangerous, no matter how justified and tempting it may seem to be)? Apart from the obvious 'dragging down to their level' in which this method results, isn't it illegal? Are the people who have put together this web page and promoted it's use in danger of the authorities deciding that they too, are contributing to the daily plague of spam? I do hope not, as I know their intentions are based in a sense of fighting a huge, common evil.

I heard that the first 'high profile' case against a spammer in the U.S., resulting in a hefty jail term, concluded only last week. I know that the wheels of 'justice' do turn slowly, in almost everything but I believe the reason for that is so that mistakes and more injustices do not result. That is my concern with Internet citizens deciding to, as I said, take the law into their own hands and perhaps overlooking where their actions may backfire, or worse, give the spammer an even more powerful tool with which to assault their victims. I shudder to think what spammers, especially those who fall victim to this new idea, might do if they find the identity or email addresses of the devisor/s of this idea. We have relatively new laws to deal with spam and it's perpetrators.

As I said, there has been, to my knowledge only one 'notable' and 'highly publicized' instance of the law at work, where the Internet community has been able to feel a sense of 'justice' and, yes......payback, revenge, whatever. Give the Law a chance. Again, I do understand the need for action and I know exactly how people feel about those who would spoil one of the communication, information and media marvels of this, and the last century. However, I think we need to, at least, give the law a chance to make a difference before we even think about resorting to such means to dissuade spammers from plying their trade. If to no one else, we owe it to ourselves.

About the Author
Stephen Brennan runs the 'Home Based Business and Affiliate Center'- http://www.online-plus.biz and is the author of 'The Affiliate Guide Book' - The definitive guide to becoming a successful Internet Affiliate (at little or no cost) - available at http://www.ebooks.online-plus.biz.

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