Fighting Spam

By: Charles Bowen

Spam is cyber-jargon for unsolicited electronic mail. We all get it and hate it, some of us more than others. Want to tell your readers how to do more than just complain about the invasion of their personal cyberspace?

The SpamCon Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting unsolicited e-mail. The site has:

— A database of more than 7,000 news stories that have been written about the problem over the past four years.
— Legal advice on how to crack down on those who abuse e-mail.
— Regular discussions on what average Web surfers can do to make things unpleasant for spammers.
— An online library of statistics, articles, studies and white papers to help businesses and governments develop policies on electronic mail and how to deal with unsolicited mailings.

To use these and other related resources, visit the site at
http://www.spamcon.org, where the introductory screen is topped with breaking news about spam and what you can do about it.

The screen is frequently updated. For instance, by the day after September’s terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, the site already had warnings about fraudulent spams for “”disaster relief”” and efforts to profit on the tragedy.

“”These attempts are taking the form of unsolicited e-mail (‘spam’) and postings in community forums, soliciting ‘donations’ in the name of victims of the attacks,”” the foundation reported.

“”A typical message claims to be part of an ‘Express Relief Fund’ or ‘Victims Survivor Fund.’ One message claims that donations will go to the Red Cross, but the donation link leads to a Web site unconnected with that organization.””

Besides the breaking spam-related news, the site’s search facilities will be of particular interest to journalists researching stories and features. Data entry boxes in the left column of the introductory screen invite you to enter a word or phrase to search either the entire site or specifically the site’s news archives.

Click the “”Advanced Search”” link below either of the search boxes to reach on-screen forms that provide more targeted research. The advanced search for the news stories, for example, lets you search by full text, headline, subhead, date, byline, publication or URL.

The site also offers assorted e-mailed newsletters on spam and related topics. See the introductory screen for options to sign up for a weekly publication, as well as foundation discussions, news of spam-fighting tools, legal developments, and marketing discussions.

Meanwhile, in a relatively new development, the foundation’s site now offers free, disposable e-mail addresses intended to help Internet users avoid receiving unsolicited messages. The system enables members to create up to 15 of these disposable mailboxes, which are monitored for spam.

Other facts about the SpamCon Foundation:

1. The organization was founded by Tom Geller in 1999 as a spam law resource. Other backers are professionals in e-mail marketing, Internet infrastructure, law and public relations.

2. Columnists and feature writers looking for statistics on the effects of unsolicited e-mail on the Internet should check out the “”About SCF”” link on the introductory screen. Here Geller provides background on the phenomenon, such as the belief that spam is responsible for a 10% increase in Net access costs.

3. Also, don’t miss the “”Library”” and “”Law Center”” links on the top of the introductory screen. From here you can reach the electronic front doors of the foundation’s growing database of articles and backgrounders.

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