You'll be having spam with that, Sir?

Yet again, New Zealand has missed an opportunity to take a leading role in dealing with spam and will just sit back on its unimaginative arse and ride along with whatever someone else comes up with first.

… there's egg and bacon; egg sausage and bacon; egg and spam; egg bacon and spam; egg bacon sausage and spam; spam bacon sausage and spam; spam egg spam spam bacon and spam; spam sausage spam spam bacon spam tomato and spam; spam spam spam egg and spam; spam spam spam spam spam spam baked beans spam spam spam; or Lobster Thermidor a Crevette with a mornay sauce served in a Provencale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle pate, brandy and with a fried egg on top and spam.

-- Terry Jones (in drag) in that Monty Python sketch

“Have you got anything without spam?”, queries the wife (Graham Chapman, also in drag). To which Jones replies: “Well, there's spam egg sausage and spam, that's not got much spam in it.” And on it goes …

It seems that IT Minister Paul Swain having 86’d it into the too-hard basket, our mail will continue to have spam in it also. Yet again, New Zealand has missed an opportunity to take a leading role and will just sit back on its unimaginative arse and ride along with whatever someone else comes up with first.

Swain’s prime excuse is that’d be like legislating against junk mail or other unwanted advertising in the offline world because it would be difficult to design rules or legislation that only excluded unsolicited and truly unwanted emails. What a bunch of crap.

Deciding whether or not an email is spam is not difficult – even pretty simple software can do it to within a reasonable degree of accuracy. Also, if you can legislate against someone making a nuisance of themselves with a telephone, surely you can legislate against them doing it with email.

It’s not that hard, folks. Most reputable ISPs have had anti-spam rules in place since, like, forever. Surely providing them with a modicum of legislative support is not that difficult.

Sure, the international boundary thing complicates matters, but not all spam comes from offshore. Not all of it is peddling porn, viagra and college degrees either. Some of my most annoying encounters have been with local spammers peddling fairly legitimate products and services.

I’m not a habitual anti-spammer like some of my friends and associates, but every now and then I lose my rag spam-wise and I’ll spend a half-hour or so and track down a bunch of people who’ve spammed me and complain to their ISPs.

One local chap was shocked and stunned that I’d dobbed him in to his (large and reputable) local ISP and emailed me a vitriolic epistle about how he was not a spammer, but an honest businessman and that I’d agreed to receive email from him because my name and email address was on a list he’d bought. Uh-huh. Basically, the guy wasn’t even aware of what spam is. Ironically, he was pitching himself as some kind of business consultant. No doubt he thought he’d come across this fantastic marketing scheme he could share with us all …

Sigh.

Swanson is IT manager at W Stevenson & Sons in South Auckland. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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