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Spam Fight

In a 2004 discussion of e-mail problems, Bill Gates claimed: "Two years from now, spam will be solved." Was he right?

Consider these claims from a recent scientific study by professors at two University of California campuses:

  • 90% of all e-mails today are spam
  • A single commercial spam e-mail generates three messages for every person on the planet
  • To sell a mere $100 of a product (e.g. Viagra), the spam source had to send out 12.5 million messages
From this last note, the scientists concluded that the main function of spam is not to sell but to advertise.

The Big Question: How to stop spam? The scientists tried a novel approach: Receiving and responding to as many spam messages as possible over a three month period, including making purchases.

From this, they discovered that the "choke point" was uncooperative credit companies handling the financial transactions. Shut off the credit options, and the spammers have no way to sell a product.

Simple, right...95% of the credit transactions for spam-related drugs and herbal remedies were done by three companies--in Azerbaijan, Denmark, and the West Indies.

Source: J. Markoff's "Study Sees Way to Win Spam Fight," NY Times, May 20, 2011