Spams: when the e-mail is not quite desired

I know what your e-mail in-box looks like, and it isn’t pretty: a babble of come-ons and lies from hucksters and con artists. To find your real e-mail, you must wade through the torrent of fraud and obscenity known politely as “unsolicited bulk e-mail” and colloquially as “spam.” In a perverse tribute to the power of the online revolution, we are all suddenly getting the same mail: easy weight loss, get-rich-quick schemes, etc. The crush of these messages is now numbered in billions per day. “It’s becoming a major systems and engineering and network problem,” says one e-mail expert. “Spammers are gaining control of the Internet.”


Many people who hate spam assume that it is protected as free speech. Not necessarily so. The United States Supreme Court has previously ruled that individuals may preserve a threshold of privacy. “Nothing in the Constitution compels us to listen to or view any unwanted communication, whatever its merit,” wrote Chief Justice Warren Burger in a 1970 decision. “We therefore categorically reject the argument that a vendor has a right to send unwanted material into the home of another.” With regard to a seemingly similar problem, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 made it illegal in the United States to send unsolicited faxes; why not extend the act to include unsolicited bulk e-mail?