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Spam Government News

CAN-SPAM Act Turns 5 Today — What Went Wrong? 301

alphadogg writes "Five years ago, the US tech industry, politicians, and Internet users were wringing their hands over the escalating problem of spam. This prompted Congress to pass a landmark anti-spam bill known as the CAN-SPAM Act in December 2003. Fast forward five years. The number of spam messages sent over the Internet every day has grown more than 10-fold, topping 164 billion worldwide in August 2008. Almost 97% of all e-mails are spam, costing US ISPs and corporations an estimated $42 billion a year. What went wrong here?"
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CAN-SPAM Act Turns 5 Today — What Went Wrong?

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  • by hguorbray ( 967940 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @07:57PM (#26139639)

    especially when they are anonymous(or at least obfuscated) and in many cases, overseas and therefore beyond prosecution under this law

    'I'm just saying

    • Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:11PM (#26139809)

      Your Congress advocates a

      ( ) technical (X) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante

      approach to fighting spam. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal law was passed.)

      ( ) Spammers can easily use it to harvest email addresses
      ( ) Mailing lists and other legitimate email uses would be affected
      ( ) No one will be able to find the guy or collect the money
      ( ) It is defenseless against brute force attacks
      ( ) It will stop spam for two weeks and then we'll be stuck with it
      ( ) Users of email will not put up with it
      ( ) Microsoft will not put up with it
      ( ) The police will not put up with it
      (X) Requires too much cooperation from spammers
      ( ) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
      ( ) Many email users cannot afford to lose business or alienate potential employers
      ( ) Spammers don't care about invalid addresses in their lists
      ( ) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's career or business

      Specifically, your plan fails to account for

      ( ) Laws expressly prohibiting it
      (X) Lack of centrally controlling authority for email
      (X) Open relays in foreign countries
      ( ) Ease of searching tiny alphanumeric address space of all email addresses
      (X) Asshats
      (X) Jurisdictional problems
      ( ) Unpopularity of weird new taxes
      ( ) Public reluctance to accept weird new forms of money
      ( ) Huge existing software investment in SMTP
      ( ) Susceptibility of protocols other than SMTP to attack
      (X) Willingness of users to install OS patches received by email
      (X) Armies of worm riddled broadband-connected Windows boxes
      ( ) Eternal arms race involved in all filtering approaches
      (X) Extreme profitability of spam
      ( ) Joe jobs and/or identity theft
      (X) Technically illiterate politicians
      (X) Extreme stupidity on the part of people who do business with spammers
      (X) Dishonesty on the part of spammers themselves
      ( ) Bandwidth costs that are unaffected by client filtering
      ( ) Outlook

      and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

      (X) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever
      been shown practical
      (X) Any scheme based on opt-out is unacceptable
      (X) SMTP headers should not be the subject of legislation
      ( ) Blacklists suck
      ( ) Whitelists suck
      ( ) We should be able to talk about Viagra without being censored
      ( ) Countermeasures should not involve wire fraud or credit card fraud
      ( ) Countermeasures should not involve sabotage of public networks
      ( ) Countermeasures must work if phased in gradually
      ( ) Sending email should be free
      ( ) Why should we have to trust you and your servers?
      ( ) Incompatiblity with open source or open source licenses
      (X) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
      ( ) Temporary/one-time email addresses are cumbersome
      (X) I don't want the government reading my email
      ( ) Killing them that way is not slow and painful enough

      Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

      ( ) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
      (X) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person for suggesting it.
      ( ) Nice try, assh0le! I'm going to find out where you live and burn your
      house down!

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Insightful? Yeah right. Of course congress did a legislative approach, THAT'S THEIR JOB. They don't have any other authority.

    • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:24PM (#26139933) Homepage

      Thanks for the hint! Now I know why my life of crime has been so slow to take off.

    • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <> on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:50PM (#26140179) Homepage
      Just like all this wire tapping, surveillance, air port searches, ... they don't really stop the criminals - they just get up everyone's nose and provide an excuse for those who ''investigate'' us with excuses to abuse our privacy.

      Look at the people who blew up the hotels in Bombay (Mumbai these days) - just a few men in boats with guns -- sophisticated protection can't stop them every time. We might as well give up and spend the money on something useful.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by digitalunity ( 19107 )

        You could require all men to carry guns. How far do you think the gunmen in Bombay would have made it if they knew every man they came upon would shoot back?

        Certainly this plan has a lot of side effects, but it is not completely without merit.

        • by gandhi_2 ( 1108023 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @09:43PM (#26140627) Homepage
          In the town of Virgin, Utah it is legally mandated that every household that can legally have a firearm must have one.

          You don't see too many terrorists there. QED.

          • by geckipede ( 1261408 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @09:58PM (#26140765)
            I would really like to see (preferably from a safe distance) that approach tried in a large city, but only because years of action films have desensetised me to violence and I think it would be hilarious.
            • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @04:44AM (#26142947)

              The murder rate will go up by a few hundred percent for a few decades. After that it will drop down. Essentially evolution will select people with good impulse control and self discipline, which in the long run will lead to a more civilised society.

              You wouldn't have the charts full of rap, numetal and emo for a start.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by theaveng ( 1243528 )

                In cities and states that overturned their anti-gun laws, the murder rate went DOWN.

                In cities and states that passed anti-gun laws, the murder rate went up.

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by geckipede ( 1261408 )
                  Are those US statistics? I can believe it would be true there because the states have drifted into a situation where no force on Earth could get rid of the arms black market and so many people are armed that criminals are forced to be so that they are on an equal footing. Neither of those things are universally true for other countries.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward
            But you do see a violent crime rate higher than the US National Average []
        • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @03:48AM (#26142695)

          You could require all men to carry guns. How far do you think the gunmen in Bombay would have made it if they knew every man they came upon would shoot back?

          Instead of 100's of dead, you'd have 100's of dead and no way to tell who started shooting in the first place. Person A Shoots persons B and C, Person D shoots person A, Person E sees person D shooting, assumes that Person D is responsible and Person E shoots Person D who is then taken out by person F and so on until you pretty much have no one left capable or willing to shoot. MAD only works if its never used. Your analogy assumes that the shooters will begin to fire ensuring that the MAD bluff is called so this is where MAD fails and a great many people get killed.

          Certainly this plan has a lot of side effects, but it is not completely without merit.

          Yes it has a great many side effects and this is why it is completely without merit. Your plan relies on the same flaw that all extremist philosophies rely on, that everyone thinks on the same path. In a situation like the one in Bombay no single person will have total awareness of the situation and cannot determine who are the attackers and who are the defenders, thus the person is forced to choose who to attack based on extremely limited observation and you can guarantee that at least 60% of the people will choose the wrong target. Let me add to this, if the myth that guns keep people safe were true, why aren't Somalia and Russia amongst the safest places to live? Firearms are very common in these places. Or perhaps you would look at South Africa, where no-one is willing to travel without a gun, not because Johannesburg is safe but because if you don't have it you will be a victim because crime is so high. Guns don't keep people safe, good laws and effective policing keep people safe. The US, Sweden and Russia have a lot of guns in the hands of civilians, why does Sweden have an order of magnitude less crime then the US (and several orders less then Russia), because of effective policing and a calm populace. Most Swedes will say they don't feel the need nor actually wish to carry guns.

          Crime in the US is higher then any other western state (unless we include Russia) so please don't bring up US and the UK as examples of how gun legislation hurts. Properly enacted it will reduce the number of gun deaths (accidents in AU have dropped by 90%, whilst violent crime has not increased by the same amount as the US). You are 8-12 times more likely to suffer injury in by violent crime in the US then you are in Australia.

          • by RaigetheFury ( 1000827 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:34AM (#26144193)

            Whoa whoa buddy, your facts are ALL WRONG!!!

            Somalia and Russia are a different playing field. More Somalia than russia really. People who have guns have power. Typically those without guns can't afford them. Plain as that. Comparing Somalia to the US is like comparing apples to oranges.

            The world is a complex place, and "weapons" don't solve everything... but being a criminal, if you know that person has a gun typically you'll go after the person that doesn't. Less risk.

            The US has laws in place that pretty much screws anyone who shoots their gun without using their brain. I wish i didn't live in a world where guns were needed but that's how it is. Before you pass judgment on me... I don't own a gun. The level of security i wish to live requires only two great dogs (labs) to alert me or let the criminal know that my house probably isn't the best place to rob.

            However, there are a LOT of people who's way of life and experience require some form of protection. A gun is one of those things.

            Another thing, when you're talking about the number of gun deaths, what about the crime rate? You quote VIOLENT crime... but what about overall crime. Hmm lets look!

   [] ... wait that can't be right it says the crime rate INCREASED... in fact it says the crime rate exploded... lets look at more references... this one must be flawed...


            Well... I'll be damned. Government studies, independent studies and just plain facts show you're completely wrong. Here are some quotes from your own major news groups.

            "Crime rate has been skyrocketing in the UK and AU since stricter gun control laws were enacted..."
            "Australia saw its violent crime rates soar after it's gun control measures..."

            It's littered with the same thing. You are WRONG. Your violent crime might be down but your crime went through the roof!!!!!

            The only gun control the US needs is to require education on ALL purchasing of firearms, and much much stiffer penalties on those that illegally own firearms. I have NO problem with someone owning an automatic weapon as long as they have proven that they are trained to use it.

    • by SgtAaron ( 181674 ) <> on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @09:02PM (#26140295)

      especially when they are anonymous(or at least obfuscated) and in many cases, overseas and therefore beyond prosecution under this law

      After tiring of the increasing load on our incoming mail servers running spamassassin, I undertook to spend a couple of days finding as many netblocks that ONLY have spam coming from them.

      It's shocking really, that I ended up spending more than two days since there were so many spread out all over the place at various colo companies. And I'm sorry to say that what I found is that nearly all of the snowshoe spammers I found were riddled around in colos here in the US. There are a bunch of ISPs out there that seem to be making a bunch of money from snowshoe spammers, so much so that they don't mind allocating half of a damned /19 for the spammers to use and populate with randomly generated domain names. And, of course, just to make it easier for us poor and broke sysadmins, these colos don't just put them all into nice contiguous blocks of IP addresses. I've about given up complaining to the likes of GalaxyVisions, Pacific Internet Exchange, AboveNet (yes, Abovenet is these days hosting lots of snowshoe spammers--sad). The list goes on and on.

      I'm up to ~375 netblocks we no longer accept SMTP connections from. The load average on our three MXs is usually about half what it used to be now.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CodeBuster ( 516420 )
        One possible response would be for the various sysadmins everywhere to get organized and attempt to close ranks against ISPs which host spammers in any of their IP ranges. Then all of the sysadmins could collectively retaliate against the ISPs in question by blocking all traffic from their entire range. There would be collateral damage, of course, but the ISPs, faced with the fragmentation of the Internet, might relent and quit hosting spammers in return for a cut of the action. The botnets would still be a
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by fredklein ( 532096 )

          I've said it before- Email Certification.

          Want to run a Certified Email server? Go to your ISP (or other such companies that may arise to offer the service). They check you out (Are you who you say you are? Do you have valid contact information? Etc...), then have you produce a Public/Private key pair. You give them the 'Private' key, and keep the 'Public' one to configure your email server with. Your email server must add an additional header with your Certifier's Certification Server (usually their email s

    • by macraig ( 621737 )

      Ah, the wonders of anonymity strike again, eh?

    • by Sentry21 ( 8183 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @10:01PM (#26140779) Journal

      It's not a new concept either. As the old saying goes, 'A lock is a device to keep an honest man honest.' It won't stop a crook.

      Let's start penalizing ISPs that don't take sufficient measures to ensure spam doesn't leave their network. Once that's done and spam zombies in first-world countries are shut off (or at least, can't do any damage), then ISPs can start banning traffic from countries that don't bother to do anything about problems (such as Taiwan).

  • by alain94040 ( 785132 ) * on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @07:58PM (#26139641) Homepage

    Enforcement would be nice. How hard would it be for some FBI office to sign up to get all the possible spam out there, and start replying to all the great offers from African banks?

    Of course, a lot of the perpetuators do not reside in the US, but quite a few do. The more legitimate a business looks like, the more likely it has a US presence that can be used to stop it.

    So vote with your US tax dollars and force your government to allocate serious funds to the problem. Please!

    -- [] -- where software developers share revenue from the apps they create

    • by SomeJoel ( 1061138 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:01PM (#26139679)
      Yes, well, while the RIAA can evidently track down and prosecute a 6 year old downloading "Wheels on the Bus", the U.S. government can't seem to figure out which companies are responsible for the SPAM, even with all the contact information that must be available for the SPAM to have any value whatsoever.
    • Of course, a lot of the perpetuators do not reside in the US, but quite a few do ...and they're mostly teenagers, senior citizens, and porn addicts who unwittingly installed RBN Genuine Advantage(tm) on their 'puters.

    • by DrLang21 ( 900992 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:30PM (#26139987)
      The problem is that the FBI's resources have largely been funneled to the War on Terror. As a result, a lot of crime is being left investigated. White collar crime among others is on the rise.
    • There's no enforcement 'cos the senators want their Viagara anonymously.

    • That's wire fraud, that's the Secret Service's responsibility as the enforcement arm of the Department of the Treasure. Of course, they're incompetent: there's not a single sign that they're any more competent now than when they raided Steve Jackson Games and every cracker they were incompetent enough to bother in Operation Sun Devil, and failed to get a single conviction.
  • What went wrong? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @07:58PM (#26139649)

    What went wrong? Nobody stopped to define "Spam" before trying to make it illegal. So they made something up, called it spam, and made that illegal. And when people called them up to ask why they were still getting spam, they replied: I don't see any spam here!

    • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:22PM (#26139919)

      Musante: How are things here on the station?
      Sheridan: Fine, fine. Status quo. We have had problems with the lurkers, but nothing--
      Musante: Lurkers?
      Sheridan: It's our version of the homeless. In many ways, we have the same problem Earth does.
      Musante: Earth doesn't have homeless.
      Sheridan: Excuse me?
      Musante: We don't have the problem. Yes, there are some displaced people here and there, but they've chosen to be in that position. They're either lazy or they're criminal or they're mentally unstable.
      Sheridan: They can't get a job.
      Musante: Earthgov has promised a job to anyone that wants one. So if someone doesn't have a job, they must not want one.
      Sheridan: Poverty?
      Musante: It's the same.
      Sheridan: Crime?
      Musante: Yes, there is some, but it's caused by the mentally unstable. We've instituted correctional centers to filter them out at an early age.
      Sheridan: Prejudice?
      Musante: No, we're just one happy planet. Well, all right, there's the Marsies, but that won't change until they stop fighting the Earth rule.
      Sheridan: And when exactly did all this happen?
      Musante: When we rewrote the dictionary.

      Musante: Captain, you're a good man. You're a fine soldier. A leader. You understand that sometimes before you can deal with a problem you have to redefine it.
      Sheridan: But you can't deal with the problems by pretending they don't exist.
      Musante: There's no need to embarrass our leaders by pointing out the flaws that they're aware of and dealing with in their own way. Some people just enjoy finding fault with our leaders. They're anarchists, troublemakers, or they're simply just unpatriotic. None of which describes you. Now, do you want people thinking otherwise?

  • Yea, something was legislated against, therefore it will stop. What logic?

  • Possibly... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    something to do with the fact that the US Congress doesn't have jurisdiction over international crime rings.

    That, and the allure of free advertising in a world full of idiots.

  • by flaming error ( 1041742 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:00PM (#26139665) Journal

    1) Legislation was flawed
    2) Problem transcends US Jurisdiction
    3) Enforcement is spotty at best
    4) Idiots buy their stuff

    • 2) Problem transcends US Jurisdiction

      The vast majority of spam originates in the continental united states.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Considering we were responsible for 56.7% of the spam in 2005, I don't think that 14.9% is a very 'vast' majority. Granted, we're still twice the countries below us, but we've either become much better or the other countries have all become far worse.

        • I'm wondering how they're counting that, though. Many of the spam botnets out there originate in Russia or other countries with governments that just don't care, though the actual computer sending it is often going to be in the US. If it's counted just by backtracking the IP address of the original sender, it'll show up as being from the US, even though it's really from Russia.

          I wouldn't be surprised if CAN-SPAM did in fact kill off the major parts of the US-born spam problem, but the problem just moved els

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Before you talk more out of your ass, look at what happened when ONE (1) USA based ISP/hosting provider was taken down in November: SpamCop (year) []

    • by bussdriver ( 620565 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:39PM (#26140087)

      #1 source of spam is the USA
      They didn't do enough plus they must have had loopholes.

      I managed a few email servers with a few hundred users back when the law was passed. When it went into effect (not when it passed) I saw within a few days a jump in spam of about 50-75% (trying to recall) it jumped up to about 2-3 times during the rest the year; it didn't rise that quickly in previous years. I don't think it has risen as quickly since then but I don't know.

      Connection? I don't know. That is what I observed.

      Since the USA is the source for most spam, other measure should be taken besides kicking down the door of some old lady who's windows PC was hijacked by a dozen spammers.

      At least that spam king was taken care of since the passing of the law. The law didn't do it; it just sent him over the edge and he took care of himself with a bullet and removed his genes from the genepool... (BTW, he lived in the USA)

  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:00PM (#26139671) Homepage

    Look at the name of the law. Working as designed.

  • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:01PM (#26139673)
    Legislation only allows some other mechanism to be used. Legislation on its own can do nothing.

    All the legislation in the world won't fix teenage pregnancies, the War On Drugs, etc etc.

    Since there is really no technical mechanism to kill spam, the legislation itself is ineffective.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Since there is really no technical mechanism to kill spam, the legislation itself is ineffective.

      IOW, your post doesn't advocates a:

      ( ) technical (X) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante

      approach to fighting spam, in favour of advocating a:

      (X) technical ( ) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante

      approach to fighting spam?

    • by Sancho ( 17056 ) * on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:18PM (#26139887) Homepage

      If there were a technological means to fight spam, we wouldn't need the legislation.

      What's needed is actual enforcement. Spammers make money because people buy their wares. Where there's money changing hands, there's a trail you can follow. The problem is seemingly that no one wants to follow that trail.

      No enforcement? Practically no law.

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        There's a trivial technological means to fight spam. It just requires abandoning SMTP and moving to a new protocol with the following requirements.

        • All compliant mail transport daemons must require all connections from client computers to be authenticated.
        • All compliant mail transport daemons must sign all messages as they pass them along.
        • All compliant mail transport daemons must have a service record in DNS for their host name that provides a public key for verification of the signature.
        • All compliant ma
        • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @09:34PM (#26140557) Homepage Journal

          Just to clarify, it is technologically trivial, but nearly impossible to actually implement in a way that completely blocks spam for everyone because it requires complete adoption before you can start rejecting all non-compliant email. Basically, we'd be better off just starting a new email system in parallel and letting the old one die off as people stop using it.

        • by Timothy Brownawell ( 627747 ) <> on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @10:54PM (#26141147) Homepage Journal

          There's a trivial technological means to fight spam. It just requires abandoning SMTP and moving to a new protocol with the following requirements.

          • All compliant mail transport daemons must require all connections from client computers to be authenticated.
          • All compliant mail transport daemons must sign all messages as they pass them along.
          • All compliant mail transport daemons must have a service record in DNS for their host name that provides a public key for verification of the signature.
          • All compliant mail transport daemons must refuse to accept any email if the signature cannot be verified immediately (even if this is due to load), forcing the sending end to retry.
          • All compliant mail transport daemons must refuse to accept any email if the host name does not resolve to the IP number from which the inbound message was received.

          You forgot one:

          • All relevant DNS servers must implement DNSSEC.

          With that, spam is basically dead. As soon as you require those restrictions, suddenly spammers have to actually own a domain name and provide a working DNS server in order to deliver spam, and that DNS server must contain up-to-date mappings for those hosts to IP numbers. That pretty much obliterates the use of zombies for delivering mail.

          Unless they can 0wn a DNS server, or have the zombies send through the owner's legitimate outbound email accounts, or can get a steady supply of disposable domains somewhere (, etc).

          It also means that there is now a domain name, which by ICANN policy, is required to have a valid postal address, phone number, and other contact information associated with it.

          And when the spammers don't follow the policy? Sure the domains might get shut down after someone realized (and got the registrar to verify) that the contact info was bogus, but that's a bit too late.

      • Where there's money changing hands, there's a trail you can follow. The problem is seemingly that no one wants to follow that trail.

        The problem with the trail has more problems than that. You can probe the trail yourself for any piece of spam you receive. Check the following for the next spam email you get:

        • The IP address of the last mail server to relay it to your inbox
        • The registration of the domain that is being spamvertised
        • The identity of the registrar that sold the spamvertised domain
        • The IP address for the webserver for said spamvertised domain

        You'll probably find people and companies in at least 2, if not 3 or 4, countries in t

      • There most certainly is a technological means to fight spam. It would be a little rough on legitimate mailing lists, but you could whitelist those back in.

        It's been suggested here on slashdot and other places, and there are papers available (and their full text is available through

        The message digest method.

        The principle is to make email expensive for mass mailers by requiring a substantial amount of CPU time (to the machine) which is barely noticeable from a human perspective.

        You simpl

    • by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:40PM (#26140101)

      I disagree, I believe that there are definitely changes which could lower the amount of spam, the problem is that getting all parties (ISPs everywhere) on board a single standard is nigh impossible. Perhaps one possibility is to require that the sender's domain resolve to the system sending the mail. This doesn't correct hijacked servers, or spam servers, but it might eliminate spam sent from botnet zombies.

      What really needs to happen is that big players (MS, Yahoo, Google, Comcast, British Telecom, etc.) get together and agree on a standard. Make the standard open, unencumbered, and state that as of date X they won't support anything else.

    • All the legislation in the world won't fix teenage pregnancies, the War On Drugs, etc etc.

      There's an easy legislative fix for the War On Drugs.

  • Wait... (Score:5, Funny)

    by wwwgregcom ( 313240 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:01PM (#26139691) Journal

    You mean you guys have still been getting spam?

  • what went wrong? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:03PM (#26139705)

    Anything that fails to remove the financial motivation behind sending SPAM will fail to prevent SPAM.

    No one in their right mind ever thought CAN-SPAM would have any tangible benefit.

  • I don't see how anything went wrong. Politicians get props for being tough on spammers (it isn't poor Congress's fault that the law is barely enforceable), and the feds profit from imposing some hefty fines on the few criminals they do catch.

  • The spammers are too smart to get caught and a lot of them probably reside outside of the US where the law does not apply.

    The law is about as useful as a law against breathing.
  • War on BS (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Why am I not surprised. Ironic, kind of like the war on drugs. The stoners are winning.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:05PM (#26139725)

    Remember when we made weed illegal and now you can't buy... ooh, wait a second.

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:08PM (#26139763) Homepage Journal

    To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem. - Douglas Adams

  • It gives Barracuda a market.
  • They should have called it CAN'T SPAM.
  • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:11PM (#26139803)

    Quite seriously, this law was specifically not aimed at spam. It was aimed at certain types of online fraud, and it deliberately took power away from local law enforcement to put it in the hands of a federal power that does _nothing_ about mere spam. It was carefully designed to allow 'opt-out' advertisements, and that first advertisement from any spammer, and it was carefully legislated that way by the Direct Marketing Association to avoid interfering with the advertisements of their funding agancies. It was also carefully designed to overrule more effective, state efforts.

    Such laws should instead be modeled on the junk fax law, which has withstood the test of free speech challenges and ease of prosecution.

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @09:41PM (#26140617)
      Once, for fun, I signed up on a "get a free x-box" site with a throw-away address. For one, being in Alaska, it was impossible for me to complete the necessary steps to get it. For another, it is the perfect spam generator. You can never take your name off the list. They don't send you any spam, so you can't get your name off. They just re-sell your address. Even if the people that bought it take it off their list, the list you are on will be sold and re-sold thousands of times. As long as the list holders never personally send the spam, they are never required to stop selling you name to others to spam. Any law that doesn't address this is a law that will have no effect. Either all spam must be opt-in (like faxes) or there would be some requirement with all UCE to include contact information of the company where they got their list and how to get of the list of not just the one sending it, but the place they got it as well (and requirements about not sending from a list more than 30 days old and not selling a list within 30 days of getting it or something like that so it won't be sold billions of times before you can get off it).

      But yes, your general point is quite correct. It was desired by the spammers because without it any one state could have crafted a more restrictive law. With it, they can claim to be operating under the federal rules and that those trump the state requirements.

      I'd make it a requirement that the company address (physical, not PO boxes) be included in every spam, as well as a phone number. The headers must be real. If any part of the spam is faked (IP addresses, from field, or such, as well as the contact information must be accurate for at least 30 days after the spam is sent), then prosecure them for fraud and illegal access of a computer. If some woman getting on myspace uses a fake name and gets convicted, so should spammers using false headers.
  • Spammers know they won't likely be caught. And, if they're caught then the punishment won't be harsh.

    Put a few in a federal PYITA prison. Put some heads on pikes outside the city walls. Send in some Navy Seals and install Vista on their machines. Do whatever it takes! :-)

  • What went wrong? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:14PM (#26139851)
    In fairness, nobody with any amount of knowledge expected it to have any impact. It's not really accurate to say it 'went wrong' when most of us never expected it to work in the first place.
  • Another example of why legislators shouldn't attempt solve problems that should be left to engineers.

    • To be fair, it was naive engineers who gave us SMTP to begin with. Accept any message without authentication? Craziness.

      Of course this is all in hindsight.

      I dont really see much spam, at this point domainkeys, reverse dns, filtering, etc have done a good job of keeping it out of the inbox, but its the bandwidth and server resources thats a problem. How can you stop people from using bandwidth without getting into some kind of national firewall (see china) or issues of censorship or even blocking entire cou

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kwabbles ( 259554 )

        I know others have said this and it's been argued before, but SMTP as it is right now should be dead. A new protocol should replace it. Yes yes, I know what a huge Herculean feat that would be - but if you look at the effort and $$ the world has collectively dumped into spam control up until this point, to me it just makes sense to start over and gradually replace the old protocol. I'm in the same boat as you, as well as my users... hardly any spam makes it to the inbox, but the damned maintenance on per

  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:19PM (#26139899) Homepage Journal
    I receive very little spam. Maybe 20%. That is hardly 97%. So where is it.

    I know where it is, and why it is still a problem. It is not in my email box, or the email box of most people. It is in the spam filters of our email providers. And that is the problem. I don't see it so I don't care. Sure, it may increase my cost to get online, but by how much. DSL is dirt cheap to what I was paying 10 years ago, and at better bandwidth. So what do I care? I don't see it, the problem is solved. And I can delete the 5 messages of spam that get through.

    So out of sight, out mind, right? Wrong. I also know for the average person, and for the average spammer, those five messages per person that gets through can mean huge amounts of money. Even if nothing is bought, the way that mail clients are set up and vulnerabilities in the mail and web clients can make the spammer money. For instance, most clients now render HTML and load images automatically. Apple still refuses to set an option in to turn off HTML permanently, though it does allow one to not load images. Still, most people load images, which registers as a hit on some scam web site and registers the email as valid. Rendering the HTML can allow viruses on the receivers machine. And even the semi legitimate spammer still has hope that someone will buy a product.

    We won't be able to get rid of all spam, even though we can't get rid of mail scams though it is a felony. The best we can manage it. If we are to fix it more, then we have to bring the problem to the forefront by letting spam through, or some other methods.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by maxume ( 22995 )

      Outlook doesn't load images by default. I don't think Outlook Express did, but I don't remember anymore. Neither Yahoo! Mail or Google mail load images by default.

      If you measure by what people are using, you are wrong about most clients (at least, the current defaults).

    • I have seen great variability in how much spam my accounts get depending on how widely I spread the addresses. On the accounts I only give to people I have met personally, I get almost no spam (less than 1 per day). On the accounts I use to sign up for online web-sites (e.g.,, etc.), I get so much spam that they are useless for anything else.

      Many people claim that they don't give their e-mail out but still get a lot of spam. Strangely, however, when I have observed these people's

    • Your upstream may be blocking a lot of it. Do you have direct incoming SMTP, and do you record things that are blocked by your blacklists?
  • CAN-SPAM like many other laws (can anyone say PATRIOT?) was written and passed for the benefit of voters and those they vote for. Very few cases of enforcement were actual attempts to enforce the law, most were attempts to fill press releases.

    As I've quoted before, FTC Commissioner Orson Swindell said at the first FTC spam conference "What we need are a few good old fashioned hangings." Certainly in spirit, yes. If the Secret Service can round of a few dozen kids and a game designer and cause them all manne

  • Nothing went wrong! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ( 142825 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:23PM (#26139927) Homepage

    The bill got the people who paid for it, what they wanted. Permission to send spam.

    To fix the bill, it needs the following:

    1. Outlaw spam. (yeah, won't probably happen, but I can dream.)
    2. Require labeling. Make it easy for spam filters.
    3. Permit private right of action for individuals.
    4. Require attorney fees to be paid to successful plaintiffs.
    5. Strict liability for the advertised party. No more, "Oh yeah, that affiliate didn't get permission to send that e-mail to you -- don't blame us."

    The bill is incorrect, you can go after foreign spammers, it is just harder.

  • by mellon ( 7048 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:23PM (#26139929) Homepage

    Seriously, the problem with every anti-spam countermeasure I've seen so far is that they are all based on using SMTP as a mail transport. And SMTP is a protocol designed for a civilized Internet - one where every email sent is assumed to be one that the designated recipient wants.

    In order to stop spam, we need to stop using SMTP and switch to a protocol that rejects mail by default. Unfortunately, this requires a flag day, and nobody's put forward a protocol like this yet, so we're still stuck with insane amounts of spam.

    • In order to stop spam, we need to stop using SMTP and switch to a protocol that rejects mail by default. Unfortunately, this requires a flag day

      Not necessarily. The Wii game console implements a transitional protocol that enforces whitelisting, much like the friend code system of Nintendo WFC games. To send mail to someone's Wii Message Board, you have to be in his address book and he in yours. It interoperates with classic SMTP: when you add an SMTP address to your message board, the address gets an e-mail from asking the user to accept or reject this contact. People who need to accept random business contacts from suppliers or customers c

    • one where every email sent is assumed to be one that the designated recipient wants.

      The problem of being assumed wanted by the recipient pales to insignificance compared to the problem of the sender being correctly identified.

  • by ericgoldman ( 1250206 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:34PM (#26140041) Homepage
    Congress had no idea why spam was a problem and therefore did not draft legislation designed to address the problem. [] Instead, they took a shotgun approach of trying to legislate against a panoply of problems, which meant that the law was not designed to fix any single problem and therefore was not going to succeed even from day 1. Eric.
  • The problem is not that the CAN-SPAM act of 2003 is flawed.
    The problem is that the US seems to assume that laws made in their country are globally accepted.
    Prohibiting pretty much anything will just make those people that want it get it from another source. For example, look at the prohibition of alcohol in the US... suddenly many people had the urge to visit Canada and/or Mexico more often (even bring back 'souvenirs').

    Just my 2-cents in the matter.

  • by Saysys ( 976276 )
    Freedom of speech is more important than $42 billion a year.

    Political speech, asking for a petition to be signed, telling someone about your faith, selling door knobs... there is a plethora of good bad and highly subjective things people can say, repressing speech, even 'commercial' speech both a constitutional violation and a vary dangerous precedent to set.

    I don't like receiving 'get a bigger penis' adds any more than the next guy, but the legal action should be against the individual for lying, not
    • Frankly, no. You may not force me to financially support your speech. Unless I get representation.

      The USA went to WAR on this issue, for fucks sake. "No Taxation without Representation", I believe was the cry. The logical conclusion is the right to kill spammers, of course.

  • The number of spam messages sent over the Internet every day has grown more than 10-fold, topping 164 billion worldwide in August 2008.

    Those are great numbers. Imagine how much SPAM would have been sent had the law NOT been passed!

  • by gorbachev ( 512743 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:53PM (#26140215) Homepage

    Private right of action got stripped out of it due to complaints from the direct marketers. That was strike one. With so much spam it's completely unreasonable to expect anyone to enforce the law. Crowdsourcing the enforcement through private right of action would've worked. And the direct marketers knew it...

    The second strike was that the bill didn't anticipate the success of botnets and Russian organized crime. The law doesn't do jack s*** about that problem.

  • Easy - Congress got involved. And, as usual, they are a complete waste of time, money, and effort.

  • Five years after being passed, the law banning flies still hasn't reduced the amount of flies. What went wrong?

  • Enforcement.

    The law itself is just fine. It cautiously defines spam, in a way that makes virtually all current spam clearly illegal, without causing significant free-speech problems. But spammers won't voluntarily obey the law, and the government isn't prosecuting them for violations.

    The Washington Post managed to get a huge amount of spam stopped just by making a phone call. The government should have been there first, and they weren't.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @09:26PM (#26140479)

    Our clients include many bands and music venues. We make every effort to be legit (unsubscribe links, legit reply email addresses, and all legit headers and DNS entries), but the rules of the game are not even available.

    See, many ISP's (AOL, and my new target of wrath, earthlink) have rules about the maximum number of messages allowed to come from a single source to their domains in a given time period. Exceed those, and you are an abuser. Except they won't tell you how many messages or how long the period. On the one hand I understand as spammers could use this to get through. But you can't even call them and get info. I've emailed their abuse lines with no reply. It's as if NO ONE knows this info. How does one follow the rules when they are undocumented and beyond the legislative code?

    Or when earthlink this past weekend decided we were a spammer, and spammed us back with abuse notices. But then they delivered our email to their customers many, many times in repetition. Like a dozen or more. It was not a server flaw on our side as confirmed by the database and log files. It was 'something' on their side that acted as a repeater for our legit email even as it was notifying us that we were spamming. We then get lots of nasty emails, which we reply to by hand. I spent half of the morning yesterday trying to get anything out of earthlink regarding the issue, but if you don't want to subscribe for service, they don't know what to do or where to have you call. I don't even know what the hoops are, much less can I jump through them.

    I get lots of unwarranted spam, but I also get many distribution lists that I want and look forward to reading. Some places make that a nightmare if you want to provide that service.

  • Doesn't the question "What went wrong?" imply that there was something right to begin with? There was almost nothing right in this bill. Though the most obvious problems include:
    • A massive loophole for most spam
    • No good enforcement mechanism for any but the most egregious offenses

    And probably the most important:

    • It is a US law for an international problem.

    Sure, the US is the originating point for a lot of spam,but there is plenty of spam that starts elsewhere. And if the offense is somehow tied to people

Adapt. Enjoy. Survive.