SPAM, the unwanted communication you get in your email and on your website, is not solely a technological problem. Yes, we need tools that better prevent it and block it, but at the core we need to understand why it's being sent in the first place.
Believe it or not SPAM works. Think about it. There has to be an economical reason for it to succeed. People are making money off of it so they continue to do it.
So how does it make money? Well first it makes money because most of the infrastructure costs are externalized. Spammers use other people's servers to do their nasty work. Just last week we had a form exploited on a website we built. We let down our guard for a single page on the Internet and within 12 hours 10,000 emails had been sent through our mail server. Now we're left to clean up the mess of being blacklisted by certain hosts, etc.
It doesn't cost much/anything to send emails. Unlike paper spam (flyers) emails are free produce and distribute. You don't need to make much of a return to justify hitting the send button.
People click the links and buy the products. It's true. We've seen enough 60 Minutes Episodes of people loosing their fortunes to Nigerian scams to know that people are falling hook, line, and sinker for SPAM.
The solution - Sadly there is none. I used to think that a financial exchange would work. The premise being that most people send as many emails as they receive. Financially that would even out for most people and essentially be free. That model sounds great but it breaks down on Internet content and other forms of online communication. The Internet is free and will continue to be.
It's like the War on Drugs except no one really wants SPAM. You still have your dealers, you still have rogue countries housing and producing the supply, you still massive amounts of money moving around. What you don't have is junkies and crack addicts.
Fight the war. Like the war on drugs, which probably is a failure, it needs to be fought at multiple levels.
- Political pressure needs to be placed on known countries that are allowing this industry within their borders.
- It needs to be made illegal. If you setup a system to call every phone at every business every day multiple times over you know you would be arrested for something.
- Doors need to be kicked in, SWAT teams need to be deployed, and the shit needs to be scared out of the spammers.
- You need to stop being a spammer. It's mostly known as Search Engine Optimization and other voodoo marketing stuff. Stop it. It's not working for you and it's killing your business. Derek Powazek has a great post on this.
- Most importantly we need to educate the masses about SPAM. Public service announcements showing what spam is and the horrors it brings to the world. If we can make Sally Arkansas understand what these emails are then her and her brother Manitoba Bob will be less likely to click on them and order a fake Rolex.