Internet Tip of the Week: Cease and Desist

While we all admit that unsolicited commercial email is a real pain, I sometimes wonder if the anti-spam zealots are going too far. Last week I was in Costa Rica, and the only practical way to communicate home was by email. I maintain an AOL account just for that purpose when traveling, and was amazed to find out when I got home, that I only received about half of the email which was sent - some of which was important.

Many ISP's (Internet Service Providers) including AOL, have installed content filters which automatically relegate anything "they think" is spam to trash, and the message never gets delivered to the intended recipient, nor is the person sending it notified it wasn't delivered.

The problem is that there is no personal judgment at the level of the ISP to determine if a note is spam or not. They have installed content filters that "dump" any email that happens to match the keywords they have installed. How dare they determine what I should receive or not receive. Because a word in the note (or the length of the note) met their reject parameters, they will not deliver it? This is wrong!

Shame on them! I don't know about you, but I don't want my ISP acting like "big brother" on my behalf, and determining what I should read and what I shouldn't.

I do agree that spam is not only a nuisance, but is a daily problem that takes my time to sort through and get rid of the "junk" I didn't ask for, and don't want to get. But let me make that determination. I can set up filters that automatically deletes email I don't wish to get myself. I don't need, nor do I want someone else making that decision on my behalf.

It has been reported to me that some ISPs are blocking newsletters that people have asked to receive. Some investigation turned up that certain words were on their "banned" list and they appeared in the newsletter. Several of our publications include a medical column by Dr. Earl Mindell. Will there be words in that column that match the filters these "self appointed guardians of email" have installed - Sure. Will the newsletters exceed some magical length they have determined to be spam - Right again. Is this spam - No! How about an email constructed in an HTML format? Some ISPs automatically delete anything without text in the body of the email - wrong.

Sending out spam is big business. The federal law enacted in the USA is ineffective as the major "spam houses" simply comply with those guidelines. Some suggest that the domains of the spam houses be blocked. Get real! Domains are a dime a dozen. If one gets blocked they simply use another.

But if someone makes a complaint about you, they may block your ISP. I know of an instance where an ISP blocked Comcast.net and nobody using that ISP could receive email sent by Comcast users.

The early days of the Internet, which was the sole property of the academicians where spam was anathema, are over. The Internet is ideally suited to support e-commerce, which it does very well. Online advertising is now a way of life.

Now - don't feel I am supporting spam but for goodness sake, I don't want someone else monitoring my email and determining what I should read or not.

How many legitimate emails do we have to "not get" because others are making that decision for us. How many requests for information should get "blown away" because the reply violated some ISP's filters. My feeling is that they should cease and desist, and not be the self-appointed guardians of my inbox.

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