By Chris Barts
Capitalism is built on the ability to advertise, to promote your product and get the largest share of the market. Advertising is often seen as an evil, but it is always a necessary one in a society with a healthy economy. Yet some types of advertising are bad, and those are why regulations on it exist. One of the most pernicious examples of bad advertising, however, is currently not controlled by laws above a very small level. It is called many names, such as UBE, UCE, and even spam', and it deserves to be banned.
UBE (Unsolicited Bulk E-mail), UCE (Unsolicited Commercial E-mail), and spam, as mentioned above, are just three names for the same advertising practice. That practice consists of sending out mass amounts of e-mails to essentially random addresses in hopes that a few will actually pay off. Unlike physical mail, e-mail costs essentially nothing to send, can be copied unlimited times without using resources more expensive than electricity and computer time, and can be copied and sent by rather simple programs called bots' that can spam unwitting users for as long as it's been programmed to nonstop. Clearly, UBE is fairly new territory, in both a social and a legal sense.
But there is precedent. Those fighting against spam often cite laws against similar practices done using phone lines instead of the Internet and autodialers instead of bots. Such practices are illegal, or at least regulated, and there are plenty of similarities between that and spamming. Spam, however, is much more damaging to those at the receiving end.
There is a well-known tactic used by those who wish to disable a computer hooked up to the Internet. It is widely called a denial-of-service attack, and it works by flooding the victim machine with too much input for it to process. Visualize a tidal wave hitting a town. That is how devastating a denial-of-service attack can be. Spam can do just that. If an e-mail address gets on one of the many lists that are bought by spammers, that address can be flooded with unwanted e-mail from a variety of mainly disreputable businesses. All that e-mail has the same effect on the victim's computer and the victim's ISP (Internet Service Provider, usually the system of computers e-mail gets sent to before the user downloads it) as the tidal wave has on the town. If it does not crash the victim computers, it at least makes the wanted e-mail nearly impossible to access. The ISP slows to a crawl trying to accept all that e-mail, in turn slowing the connections speed of every computer connected to the Internet through it. That costs money, both in phone bills and in potential lost business for businesses hooked to a victim ISP.
In short, spam is a practice that needs to be outlawed everywhere. Those who send spam are ruining the Internet, and preserving the integrity of this most vital system demands that we punish the guilty like we punish other vandals. Advertising is vital. Destruction of property is not.