Spambusters

Want to learn about debt consolidation? Herbal supplements? Or
just about any variety of sex toy under the sun? Then feel free to
check my e-mail inbox. It?s all there, dozens of smarmy offers each
day, deposited under the supposedly generous pretext of helping me
manage my life.

But all this spam really accomplishes is to frustrate me, as
well as millions of others. The kind of help we?d truly appreciate
is in getting rid of this deluge of unsolicited commercial junk,
which Consumer Action (www.consumer-action.org) reports now
accounts for an estimated one-third of all e-mail. Together with
the Telecommunications Research and Action Center and the National
Consumers League, they have created a Web site, www.banthespam.com,
where beleaguered e-mail users can register their horror stories
and read about a recent proposal to prod the Federal Trade
Commission into a new role as spambuster.

Joining forces against our hidden assailants may be our last
best hope and, though it sounds deceptively simple, a well-oiled
delete button may well be key. Rather than relying on preprogrammed
rules or teams of professional screeners, the promising SpamNet
software (currently available for free at www.cloudmark.com, though
only compatible with Microsoft Outlook at this time) gathers
information each time a user rejects an e-mail. Enough rejects
effectively bans the e-mail from being distributed to other users.
And that starts to feel like real help in managing my life.

Jacqueline White is an Utne contributing
editor
.

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