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SPAM - October 26, 1999

The Hard Case - (the extreme)

I am bothered by spam and junk mail, whether addressed or not, because is wastes my time and resources, is an invasion of privacy, and nothing less that the theft of my time and resources since it consumes these without my permission.  It is no different in principal, than theft of my car to go for a joy ride, or the take over or invasion of my home by someone who wants it and has more power to take it, than I do to defend it. (Our permissive society allows one to use a gun for home invasion, (aw gee; the poor guy had a tough home life), but does not allow use of same to defend ones home.)

Our society is far too permissive. The "just delete it attitude" encourages and condones the attitude of those who decide that: "I will do whatever the hell I want, whether it tramples someone else's person or property or not, and to hell with their personal or property rights!". This is the same attitude that encourages and condones crime of all kinds, an attitude that should not and can not be tolerated, if we are to maintain a just, rather than an animalistic society.

I very much favour maintaining our freedoms; freedom of the press, one's right to free expression of every sort, by whatever means is appropriate and acceptable by society. This freedom however, must have some limits and controls. I may wish my freedom to be absolute, but can not reasonably expect it to extend beyond the point where it interferes with someone else's rights or freedoms. Total and absolute freedom to do what ever one wants, would by definition, include the right to steal, kill, or perform any other kind of conversion, mutilation or perversion of ones neighbour or his property. Such is anarchy, and cannot be tolerated if we are to survive as a society.

Now lets get back to the internet & spam, and deal with the relative importance of perceived transgressions.

1. Yes, the occasional unsolicited e-mail message sent by accident, or out of ignorance, is not really going to harm anyone.

2. Traffic designed to interrupt our work, or what we consider important, with a sales pitch that someone wants to force upon us, is at best, a rude and inconsiderate invasion of privacy; at worst, it is theft of our time and resources and an act of trespass. One certainly has no "right" to force us to or read or hear a message against our will.

3. Traffic designed to intentionally defraud, attack or otherwise harm children or old folks (the defenseless), are quite another matter. This demands zero tolerance, maximum contempt, and maximum effort to exterminate.

There are many degrees of transgression, and there should therefor be appropriate degrees of reaction and penalty. These reactions and penalties must be sufficient to discourage mild transgression, and to the degree possible, eliminate criminal behavior.

What can we do?
Can we all agree to NEVER buy, or favourably respond, to anything presented in this manner?

Tolerance of mass mailings, their deliberate use to perpetrate scams and fraud, or crimes of other kinds, presents a danger to society.

"The price of freedom is vigilance." To ignore transgressions of your freedom, is to loose that freedom, inch, by inch, by inch.

Somewhere a line must be drawn, and that line must be drawn in concept and ethics before it can be drawn in law. Law in a democracy is after all, the agreed rules of conduct and enforcement by which we choose to live in a civil society. (e.g. agreed by, or for, the majority).

Where this line is drawn is important, and for the time being, it is represented on the internet by "netiquette". The set of rules we call netiquette is evolving and, for better or worse, they are the only rules of conduct that cover the whole of the internet so far, because our society (thank God), does not yet have a "World Government". Enforceable laws are primarily limited in jurisdiction to one nation. (The World Trade Organization would like to think, and is trying to rule otherwise, in the area of trade. 'Free Trade' as presently practiced is, I think, a typical political oxymoron.)

Laws imposed by government are often very ill conceived, and frequently do more harm than good.

I believe that rules agreed to voluntarily by users, and enforced by general agreement and custom rather than military or paramilitary force, are usually preferable, more effective, and easier to deal with. They provide for more 'common sense' interpretation, and hopefully provide for more civilized and appropriate treatment of transgressions. This is accomplished (sometimes well, sometimes not so well) by many 'self governing' bodies. (Law, medicine, engineering, accounting and other professional associations, etc.)

It therefor behooves all of us, to use the 'unofficial' tools available to us, to set and aid in the evolution of internet rules of conduct and the enforcement of those rules. To say 'let the government do it', is to abrogate our responsibilities. It is also to invite legally enforced rules prepared by political bodies and bureaucrats, who make rules because they have to, or because it is politically expedient to do so, and not because they understand what the problems are, what the correct solutions are, or what the results of their actions will turn out to be in the long haul.

There is strong pressure on governments all over the world, to make rules governing the internet. (examples: Australia, Canada, China, the Soviet, the USA). These laws will be designed, debated, and passed, sometimes by people who have never used the internet, have a narrow or biased view of 'personal freedom', or people who cannot imagine what the long term evolution of the internet will be, or what effect their uninformed actions may have on this evolution. Better, in my opinion, to keep government as far away from such 'rule making' as possible. I would insist however that government aggressively pursue criminal activity, using existing law and internet facilities as part of their tool kit.

It is up to us, the internet users, to establish acceptable use of this great resource. It is also up to us to enforce this acceptable use, by insuring that those who would advance parasitic advantage through its use, receive no satisfaction or sustenance through its use.

If we abrogate this responsibility, then we assign by default, that power to others over whom we may have no influence or control, and also by default, agree to be governed by the results, be they good or bad.

To those who are content to accept the wrongs of society as "that's just the way it is; get used to it", in response to spam or other violations of their person:

Please hesitate occasionally, just for a moment, and ask:
o Which piece of me did I give up today;
o What bit of my future rights and freedoms did I let fall;
o What bit of my kid's future did I give away;
o What part of society's future did I jeopardize; and
o What bit of the continuing corruption of a selfish, misguided person, did I encourage or condone;
when I ignored that violation, without a thought, a registration of objection, or even making a mental note saying "damn it, something is wrong here!"

Yes, spam bothers me.
Ian M. Munro CMA ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
123 Longwood Drive Phone : (519) 884-2296
Waterloo Ont. N2L 4B6 E-mail :

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