How to turn spam into cash on the Internet

 作者:夏侯螳     |      日期:2019-03-01 01:04:12
By CHARLES ARTHUR USERS of the Internet’s electronic forums are bracing themselves for the publication of a book which could spell the end of their informally run community. It could also lead to an electronic battle royal over the commercialisation of the network. The book, entitled How to make a Fortune on the Information Superhighway, is written by the two principal partners of the law firm Canter & Siegel of Phoenix, Arizona. In April they outraged thousands of Internet users by posting an advert on 6000-odd Usenet newsgroups, the specialist forums set up for free-form discussion of ideas and topics ranging from Australian culture to Zen Buddhism. Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel say they have written “a general business book” which will advise companies new to the Internet about how to profit from its global reach. “What we are saying is that people should have a choice of the way that they market themselves. The newsgroups are an easier way to market yourself,” says Canter. He says the book will be in the shops this week, though its publisher, HarperCollins, quotes a date around March 1995. However, companies that follow the book’s advice may find their Internet connection bombed with furious messages from long-term users of the network, angered by what they consider to be a serious breach of the Usenet’s informal code of ethics. Canter & Siegel’s posting in April drew 20 000 complaints, and its account was closed because angry users sent enormous, useless data files which crashed the receiving computer more than 15 times. The key rule of Usenet is that messages posted to a newsgroup should be relevant to its topic. It costs next to nothing to send a message. Some of the forums in the Usenet are specifically set aside for advertising by individuals or companies. But posting irrelevant messages is seen as a theft of resources, because people who are interested in a particular newsgroup have to access all the messages appearing on it, and this costs them money for connection time or telephone charges. Canter is unrepentant. He says that by posting its message on a large number of newsgroups – a tactic known on the Internet as “spamming” – his firm drew 1004 paying clients, who were charged between $95 and $145. “Considering the money that it took to reach them, I think it’s a good outcome,” he says. Siegel adds: “We say that there is no ethos to follow anyway. We believe that for people to try to stop us posting such messages is against freedom of speech.” However Sharon Fisher, a journalist and author of Riding the Internet Highway, comments: “The objections the Internet community had were not because it was advertising, but because more than 6000 identical copies were posted. There are a number of appropriate places for advertising on the Internet, and if they had confined their message to a couple of appropriate newsgroups, I am sure there would have been no problem.” Louis Fisher, editor and publisher of Wired, an influential American magazine on the Internet scene, says: “I’m pretty confident that the Net community will be able to retain its strong identity and its valid ethical codes. In fact, the Net has prevailed in the case of Canter & Siegel by peacefully enforcing its conventions, without recourse to the courts.” Siegel brushes such ideas aside. Asked whether she thinks that Usenet users who protested will alter their perception of spamming, she replied: “I don’t care if they do or don’t. They are a very small number of people, who would like to believe that everybody agrees with them.” Meanwhile the Usenet is buzzing with suggestions on how to counter any “spamming” by other companies. E-mail bombing appears popular: “There’s nothing illegal about sending the entire Unix kernel code – all 40-odd megabytes of it – in 10-kilobyte segments to the offending spammer,