Spam Madness!

Spam is annoying . . . and I use ‘spam’ in its broadest possible meaning, excluding only the meat product after which it is named. I include unsolicited commercial email, telemarketing calls, junk mail, and countless variations thereof in my definition of ‘spam’ and I hate it all.

The U.S. government’s ‘do not call list‘ is one of the most useful things our federal government has done in decades, and it essentially eliminated the telemarketing calls when I signed up. I have yet to figure out any way of eliminating the others.

Probably 2/3 of the physical postal mail I receive is junk mail, and I see no way of stopping it. I get tons of spam email, though the vast majority of it is filtered out by my service provider and what little makes it through usually gets caught by the Thunderbird mail client.

And it extends even further these days. This web site is powered by WordPress, and spammers target the WP blogging and CMS platform for comment spam. I use a plugin called ‘WP-SpamFree‘ to stop the majority of this behavior, but the numbers are absolutely mind-boggling. Since I switched to WordPress on April 1, 2008, the plugin has blocked an incredible 40,023 spam comments . . . that’s an average of over 750 spam messages per day. Recently, as many as 20 per day have been making it past WP-SpamFree only to get caught by Akismet—a second spam blocking plugin I run on the site.

This isn’t a huge inconvenience, but I’ve taken the steps to keep it under control. If a user had installed WordPress without knowing about the plugins, they might have very quickly been buried in an avalanche of gibberish advertising.

A constant source of fascination for me is that enough people buy things from these spam messages to justify their existence. I think you have to be particularly stupid to buy something off a shady-looking WordPress comment or email message, but people do it! Why?!

The cost of all this spam must be astronomical—maybe not to me directly, since I have tools to block the mess, but certainly to the Internet services that must transmit all that data and ultimately pass their costs on to the rest of us. I’d be curious to know what percentage of Internet traffic is stupid, unsolicited commercial messages. I’d also be curious to know why the government consistently does nothing about the mess, despite it actually being a legitimate federal concern (interstate and/or international commerce).

Scott Bradford has been putting his opinions on his website since 1995—before most people knew what a website was. He has been a professional web developer in the public- and private-sector for over twenty years. He is an independent constitutional conservative who believes in human rights and limited government, and a Catholic Christian whose beliefs are summarized in the Nicene Creed. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University. He loves Pink Floyd and can play the bass guitar . . . sort-of. He’s a husband, pet lover, amateur radio operator, and classic AMC/Jeep enthusiast.