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Congress Loves Spam -- If It's From Congress

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the would-you-like-some-gravy-with-your-pork dept.

Spam 148

Makarand writes "According to this NY Times article (registration required), while Congressional members were busy passing the U.S. anti-spam law that will go into effect on January 1, they were also busy sending unsolicited e-mail to their constituents. This activity was aimed at growing the subscriber base receiving their political messages because these email lists are not subject to the normal 90-day blackout period before an election where members are forbidden to use taxpayer-supported Congressional mass communications. Consumer advocacy groups say that this policy may be unfair to the challengers because this loophole could be used by elected officials to communicate with voters right up to Election Day."

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148 comments

GNAA Loves Penis Enlargement Spam (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821162)

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Yawn (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821207)

Yall have no creativity. A good troll should be at least as disturbing as this [bmezine.com]

Re:Yawn (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821283)

That is nasty [bmezine.com] .

Re:Yawn (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821396)

After seeing that, here [wallstreetzombies.com] is something nicer.

Hah... (4, Insightful)

mOoZik (698544) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821164)

Yeah, and who thought they were stupid enought to put themselves equally under the law? They are politician's, for god's sake.

Re:Hah... (1)

mOoZik (698544) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821229)

...before someone points out the obvious, it's supposed to be politicians and not politician's. Ah, the curse of sleeplessness.

Re:Hah... (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821363)

Let the bastards spam me. That's basically an almost 100% guarantee to make me vote against them

Re:Hah... (1)

Metasquares (555685) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821550)

But what about everyone else they're spamming? Hopefully most people are smart enough to ignore these messages, just like any other spam, but that won't stop at least a small percentage from taking them seriously.

Re:Hah... (1)

CaptBubba (696284) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821777)

I feel the same way.

Just remember to take action if you get one of these spam messages. Print the spam, write and sign a letter explaining that the representitive in question lost your votes and donations because of it, and send it to their office. The campaign managers know that for every letter written and sent in there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of people who feel exactly the same way but were too busy/lazy to write a letter about it. If they get enough letters they will stop sending spam.

I really don't care about the subscription list exception, but they way they hope to get people onto those lists is disgusting. Have a big rally or something where you have cards for people to fill in their email address, but don't spam. I just know there will be people who will get spammed by represenitives for another state or district.

Re:Hah... (1)

cicho (45472) | more than 10 years ago | (#7822315)

Problem is, the voting system provides no way of voting "against" someone. You can only vote "for". If all the candidates spam, all you can do is not vote, which sends them no message at all.

Re:Hah... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821318)

Which is better...

(a) a story submission with a NYT registration-only link in it...

or...

(b) sex with a mare?

Re:Hah... (1)

BuckaBooBob (635108) | more than 10 years ago | (#7822068)

Guess they have never thought of "what are people going to say when we are blacklisted by every ISP and our practices will keep us banned?"

Full TEXT (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821166)

WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 -- Even as Congress was unanimously approving a law aimed at reducing the flow of junk e-mail, members were sending out hundreds of thousands of unsolicited messages to constituents.

The spasm of activity is aimed at attracting voluntary subscribers to the lawmakers' e-mail lists, which would not be subject to House rules that normally impose a 90-day blackout before an election for taxpayer-supported Congressional mass communications.

In September, the House Administration Committee voted, 5 to 3, along party lines to allow e-mail messages to the subscribers to be sent in the blackout period, but maintained the ban on free postal mail from House members to voters. The policy change affected only House rules and was not part of the junk e-mail legislation.

At least 40 House members have bought or agreed to buy e-mail address lists from at least four vendors. The lists, which each have tens of thousands of addresses, are generally created by a process called e-mail appending, taking voter registration files from a member's district. The next step is to cross match them with large databases of names and e-mail addresses assembled by consumer data companies like Equifax, which has a database of more than 75 million e-mail addresses. E-mail addresses can usually be found for 10 percent to 20 percent of the voter file.

Many members of Congress praise the new policy for allowing cheaper and more effective communications with constituents. But consumer advocacy groups say the policy may unfairly give an advantage to incumbents over challengers because it allows elected officials to use government resources to communicate with voters right up to Election Day. In addition, the consumer advocates say, sending bulk e-mail messages to constituents who have not agreed to receive it is essentially electronic junk mail, or spam.

The ability to communicate with constituents at taxpayer expense, the franking privilege, is one of the most cherished and controversial perks of office. For 30 years, advocacy groups have lobbied and sued Congress to try to close loopholes and stop abuses of the privilege.

Critics say the policy has created a significant new loophole.

"The core value is that you don't want to leverage technology to increase incumbent advantage," said Celia Viggo Wexler, research director at Common Cause, a group that has sued to limit franking. "What is troubling is that essentially the House is saying, `O.K., you can communicate with the constituency up to an election, and we're not really going to check what you are saying with them.' The point is without that kind of oversight, it's ripe for abuse."

Before the change, e-mail was subject to the same treatment as regular postal mail. Correspondence sent to more than 500 constituents had to obtain approval from the franking commission and was subject to a 90-day blackout before an election. But individual responses to citizens were not subject to the restrictions.

Congressional officials said the old policy was too cumbersome.

"Anything over 500 e-mails you had to submit that to the franking commission," said Brian Walsh, the Republican spokesman for the House Administration Committee. "There was going to be a delay of a couple of days to get approved. We didn't feel that was consistent with the technology that existed."

The new policy says that lawmakers can freely send messages to voters who have agreed to subscribe to their e-mail lists. To build such lists, House members are sending huge amounts of bulk e-mail messages to their districts in the hope that some voters will subscribe.

The unsolicited messages go out from Congressional offices as often as twice a month. The unsolicited messages, which have to stop 90 days before an election or a primary, are still subject to approval from the franking commission.

"They are regulating commercial spam, and at the same time they are using the franking privilege to send unsolicited bulk communications which aren't commercial," David Sorkin, a professor at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago, said. "When we are talking about constituents who haven't opted in, it's spam."

President Bush signed the law on spam on Dec. 16, and it takes effect on Thursday. It will ban the sending of bulk commercial e-mail using false information like fake names, as well as misleading subject lines and automated harvesting of e-mail messages. It will also require all commercial e-mail messages to include a valid postal address and give recipients an opportunity to opt out of receiving more messages.

The law restricts only commercial e-mail, a sector that accounts for more than half of all e-mail traffic. The law does not apply to unsolicited political messages. It also authorizes the Federal Trade Commission to study the possibility of a "do not spam" list.

Violators of the law will be liable for a fine up to $250 per violation, up to a cap of $2 million, except in extreme circumstances, when the fine could be tripled. Violators could also face up to five years in prison.

Members of the House say their unsolicited e-mail messages are not junk e-mailings, because the messages are directly intended for constituents who have the right to opt out, and the messages have received positive reactions.

"Our experience has been that we get hundreds and hundreds of people who opt in for every person who opts out," said Representative Brad Sherman, a California Democrat who has bought a list. "E-mail has been a great communications device."

From a technology perspective, commercial and political bulk e-mail look startlingly similar.

Advocacy Inc., a consultant in Washington, had its first unsolicited bulk e-mail, sent on behalf of Representative Pete Stark, Democrat of California, initially blocked by America Online's spam filters. AOL later agreed not to block the messages, Advocacy said.

The new policy is fueling an e-mail arms race. Democrats say that the new policy, which was drawn up by the Republicans who control the House, took them somewhat by surprise, but they are catching up.

"The Democrats are worried," said Roger A. Stone, the chief executive of Advocacy, who has been signing up Democratic offices at the rate of about five a week. "I'm dealing with people whose boss said, `Get me some of that Internet.' "

Full TEXT is not fair use. (1, Insightful)

jerryasher (151512) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821504)

Please respect copyright by not posting the full text of articles. /. readers can register or not read the Times. It should be up to the Times to decide. /. readers that have chosen not to register have chosen not to read.

If you support GPL, then you need to support the copyright it is based on.

Re:Full TEXT is not fair use. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821702)

NY Times should respect my right not to get spammed to death.

Full text IS fair use. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821774)

If you support the GPL, you should support the ideals behind it, which are that the concept of copyright is FLAWED, and should be removed.

Stop thinking of information as property. It isn't.

The

Re:Full text IS fair use. (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821840)

Mod parent AC up. It is 10x more insightful than the GPL whiner he's responding to.

Re:Full text IS fair use. (1)

cicho (45472) | more than 10 years ago | (#7822339)

So you think GPL-licensed works are not copyrighted? Have you ever *seen* GPL? Hint: your parent AC has about as much clue about GPL as Darl "GPL is anti-American" McBride.

Re:Full TEXT is not fair use. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821934)

I want to stick my pee pee in your poo poo hole.

Re:Full TEXT (1)

w9wi (162482) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821791)

"The spasm of activity is aimed at attracting voluntary subscribers to the lawmakers' e-mail lists, "

Voluntary, my *ss...

After writing my representatives via email a few months back, one of my Senators (Lamar Alexander (TN) [senate.gov] ) saw fit to add me to his mailing list.

I guess if you choose to express your opinion on the issues, you're opting in to be spammed.

Can't see how that makes sense (4, Insightful)

arvindn (542080) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821171)

Spammers operate on the principle that even though 99% (or thereabouts) of recipients recognize and hate spam, the remaining 1% of fools are enough to make their business model viable. However, would this work for political spam? I mean, if more than 50% of recipients react negatively to it, its bad for the sender, isn't it? (IANAA, so correct me if I'm missing something :-)

Re:Can't see how that makes sense (2, Insightful)

qvek (722913) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821180)

Unless you can win the election with less than 50% of the vote which happens often :)

Also 99% of people may SAY they hate spam. However I would think that a political email (especially one not asking for funds at all) is probably likely to be read and/or make a positive influence on a higher number of people than something with a subject line like "XXX FREE TEEN PICS", etc.

Re:Can't see how that makes sense (4, Insightful)

KjetilK (186133) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821199)

I'd argue that 100% of recipients hate spam, but that there are enough biznissmen who think that spamming is profitable and can't be bothered about the fact that they're hated, to make spammers very wealthy. Spammers are making money not by selling the products that they spam for, but by selling spamming itself.

But of course, I could be wrong, it's just that every time I have actually gotten in contact with those who bought spam services, they had actually been ripped off by the spammer, and they sold nothing.

Re:Can't see how that makes sense (1)

deadmongrel (621467) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821255)

"I'd argue that 100% of recipients hate spam"
Not Really! There are people who buy from these businesses which use spam. Someone pays the spammers and businesses wouldn't be interested if they don't make money using spam. There are people in this world who think their jonny is too small and pay for bull crap. All I am saying is Spam, How much ever you hate it, makes money because some asshole uses it to buy stuff.

Re:Can't see how that makes sense (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821346)

The great thing about advertising is that there is no viable and accurate way to measure return. Companies spend millions of dollars every year on advertising but they generally don't know whether or not it worked.

The best they can do is poll random samples and ask people if they've seen the ad. And that doesn't work very well.

Re:Can't see how that makes sense (1)

fastidious edward (728351) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821413)

The way spam works is to have a unique ID in the email correspondiing to a unique remote image and link target should you decide to click.

The remote image lets the company know you have read the email (unless you turn off remote image loading, but IIRC this is not available in OE and I'd wager spam respondants are not 'power users' who would know how to do this).

The unique link allows a commission to be paid if a product is bought.

The two together allow a pretty accurate measure of the direct effectiveness of spam, though it still doesn't take account of side effects (i.e., saturation affecting demand for a product)

Re:Can't see how that makes sense (2, Insightful)

schon (31600) | more than 10 years ago | (#7822009)

businesses wouldn't be interested if they don't make money using spam

That's known as 'specious reasoning'. It makes sense as long as you don't actually think about it.

obsimpsons quote:

Lisa: "By that logic, I could say that this rock keeps tigers away."

Homer: "Really, how does it work?"

Lisa: "It doesn't. It's just a rock! But you don't see any tigers around, do you?"

Homer: "I would like to buy your rock!"


Here's what's really happening:

Spammer finds moron, says "I can advertise your product for a fraction of the cost of legit^h^h^h^h^hconventional marketing companies."

Moron thinks "hey, this stuff must really work, after all, if it didn't work, they'd be out of business." And says "OK, here's my money."

NOBODY buys any of Moron's stuff. Moron is out $X. Spammer finds new moron, says "I can advertise your product for a fraction of the cost of legit^h^h^h^h^hconventional marketing companies."

Moron thinks "hey, this stuff must really work, after all, if it didn't work, they'd be out of business." and says "OK, here's my money."

Lather, rinse, repeat.

It is NOT necessary for spam to be effective for it to continue - all that's required is for someone to think it's effective.

Time to get the 4th estate on this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821548)

they had actually been ripped off by the spammer, and they sold nothing.

It is time to start suing the people who are advertising via spam AND getting the 4th estate to cover such lawsuits.

Let the 'people who are advertising' know how LOUSY the return on spam is...by costing them $$$.

Re:Can't see how that makes sense (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821294)

In any given election, there are those who will definitely vote for one candidate, those who will definitely vote for another, and so on. Then there are the so-called undecided, which make up only a small fraction of the population. Sometimes, this fraction is too small to matter, other times the election is so close that literally a handful of undecided voters make all the difference.

Of course, it doesn't make sense to spam those who vote against you, and it doesn't make sense to spam those who vote for you. But the undecideds, I guess there's a small chance they'll bite.

Re:Can't see how that makes sense (2, Funny)

darien (180561) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821311)

Of course, it doesn't make sense to spam those who vote against you...

Ah, but wait until e-Voting really gets going. "If you want to be removed from this mailing list, click here [diebold.com] ."

Re:Can't see how that makes sense (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821321)

Heh. Imagine Slashdot2004, instead of the [diebold.com] tag next to a link, it'll be [D] or [R].

Re:Can't see how that makes sense (1)

Metaldsa (162825) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821516)

I was thinking the same thing and looked through the comments so I wouldn't be redundent. If I was getting spammed once a week by a politician with no opt-out list why the hell would I vote for him? This doesn't seem like an advantage at all.

Effectiveness of SPAM? (3, Interesting)

OffTheLip (636691) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821173)

SPAM is irritating but how effective is it really? Aside from the occasional well publicised ripoff who reads or responds to it? The US Congress must know something I don't.

Re:Effectiveness of SPAM? (5, Insightful)

Slowping (63788) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821263)

I think it's a calculating move by politicians. With the SPAM bill they reduce the noise surrounding their own spam. I know that my grandparents didn't mind SPAM when they first got on the internet, when it was only ~1-5 per day. They stopped reading SPAM when it exploded to 100's per day.

If the SPAM bill helps cut that down to, say, 20 per day, politicians' own included, I think elderly people like my grandparents will start reading SPAM again. With the growing importance of the elderly voting population, I think SPAM can be quite important for these politicians.

Re:Effectiveness of SPAM? (2, Funny)

shaitand (626655) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821351)

Let's put it this way, MILLIONS have already enlarged their penises and every one of them is now making their penis functional (since it stopped working along with the enlargment) again thanks to viagra.

Re:Effectiveness of SPAM? (1)

WhitehatSystems.com (736014) | more than 10 years ago | (#7822148)

Who reads or responds to it? obviously people do respond to it. unfortunately there are too many stupid people who do, otherwise the spammers would not be sending so many to my spamtraps...

What's that line again ? (4, Insightful)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821176)

Oh yeah, I remember: "Do unto others as you would have them do to you"...

Reminds me indirectly of the Euro-MP who complained that people were contacting her with their views. They ought to have just sat back and been told what they wanted....

Disgusted. Is it any wonder we regard politicians as full of (sh)it ?

Simon.

Overreacting (1)

filtersweep (415712) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821344)

Frankly (no pun), I really do not receive that much unsolicited junk mail from politicians as it is, so why should I fear that they will even begin to compete with the real spammers that send 100+ emails to my public email address?

People have largely accepted their junk mailing privileges as it is. I am a bit more worried about irresponsible emails from so-called political organizations, with the possibility that like soft money, they will be playing by an entirely different set of rules and have little accountability.

There are enough internet rumors- just wait until the political spin doctors step into the game... but actual candidates pose little concern.

loopholes (1)

56ker (566853) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821181)

Just wait till they find out and they'll put an "except for use by political parties" clause. ;)

but they can't send any *spam* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821190)

because everyone knows there's no beef in government ;-)

Nothing New (5, Interesting)

Bloodmoon1 (604793) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821198)

This shouldn't really come as to big of a suprise. Political acts have been exempted from major laws before. From the DoNotCall.gov FAQs [donotcall.gov] :

The National Do Not Call Registry does not limit calls by political organizations, charities or telephone surveyors.

Political spam isn't to much different from unsolicited political phone calls. And both would surely be of intrest to the politicians, as they seem to have exempted them from the laws. I find political phone calls equally, if not more annoying, then people asking me if I want to save $.13 a year on my long distance bills.

bah, easy to deal with... (5, Funny)

tuxette (731067) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821210)

You just tell them "well, I was going to vote for your candidate, but since you called to pestered me, I'll vote for the opponent instead." *click*

Political spam can be dealt with in a similar manner. "Promise" a vote and then on the day of the election write "Sucka. Did you really think I'd vote for a spammer?"

At the same time, sign these politicians up on mailing lists etc. that guarantee lots and lots of spam. And forward their addresses to those kind Nigerians who have more than enough money to help finance political campaigns.

Re:bah, easy to deal with... (1)

Bloodmoon1 (604793) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821248)

Personally, I've always prefered to sign them up for free hardcore gay porn, but I think I like your idea better. I knew someone would find a use for those wealthy Nigerian benefactor's of deposed kings someday. I love it. You just got a new fan.

Re:bah, easy to deal with... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821328)

Local ISP's can EASILY filter these out to a quarantine bin, then inform the intended recipitant that they got spam or a virus, and have to go through all sorts of hoops to read it, and when they do, with an online web background supports the opposition, or presents unflattering factual information. Anything with the word vote in it to get delayed, and, seeing that it is SPAM, resell or give this information to the opponent for next time.

The Local ISP can decide what email will be selectively blocked, and blacklist accordingly.

Doesn't work (1)

Inode Jones (1598) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821401)

During the municipal election in Ottawa, I got a call from Alex Cullen, a candidate for council. Well, I got an ADAD; couldn't even tell him off (maybe I could have if I waited until the end of the spiel, but...) OK, I was going to vote for Blatherwick anyway.

The day before election day, I got an ADAD call from Blatherwick. Oh well, just gotta hold my nose and vote.

Re:bah, easy to deal with... (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821887)

"You just tell them "well, I was going to vote for your candidate, but since you called to pestered me, I'll vote for the opponent instead." *click*"

And then the candidates set up telemarketing campaigns that claim to be from their opponent's camp. In Louisiana's gubenatorial run-off last month, Republican Bobby Jindal all but accused Democrat (and governor-elect) Mary Blanco of doing just that.

Re:Nothing New (1)

mattjb0010 (724744) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821256)

Political spam isn't top much different from unsolicited political phone calls.

and we know how to deal [xs4all.nl] with unsolicited phone calls! :)

In other news.. The Penis Patch Party launches (1)

wackybrit (321117) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821262)

This exemption to political organizations could result in similar issues as to the protection that religions get. L Ron Hubbard created Scientology, as he was getting too much flak from the scientific community on his ideas about Dianetics (tm). Laws offered protection to religions, and so Scientology was born. Numerous other 'questionable' activities have been 'religionized' or 'charitized' because of this. So, what next? Could we have penis patch and viagra companies becoming political organizations?

"Presidental candidate Ivor Bigcock believes in bigger penises for all. If you contribute just $9.99 to our campaign, we'll send you a free penis patch!"

Yes, I can actually see this happening!

Re:Nothing New (2, Informative)

WCMI92 (592436) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821678)

I do as well. I see it this way...

Politicians shouldn't be trying to influence me. I should be influencing THEM. But in the "nanny state" we are becoming, more and more people, unfortunately, have the misguided idea that it's the government's (and hence, the politician's) job to TAKE CARE OF US...

Let them run ads and put up signs at election time, as that's stuff I can CHOOSE to eyeball or listen to. But they don't need to be calling me or spamming me. THAT, to me is a government invasion of my privacy.

Typical of a group of politicians who have been in office, and therefore power, too long...

Write laws that have no prohibitions on THEMSELVES. This was one of the big things the Democrats were doing in the 40 years they ran Congress. And changing things to that Congress had to live under the laws it passed was one of Newt's biggest planks in the "Contract for America".

(Congress used to be exempt from, among other laws: The 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Social Security Act, and the OSHA Act.)

Leave them in power 10 years and they act the same way...

I'm beginning to think the best strategy is to always vote against incumbents. No matter what the party of their particular beliefs.

Note too the implications that the new (illegal, but upheld anyway) CFR "Amendment" to the Constitution can prohibit what can be said via e-mail 90 days before an election...

So, is it soon to be illegal for me to say anything negative about Robert K. Byrd 90 days before an election on MY OWN website?

Scary stuff. Don't say I didn't warn you people either. CFR and the misguided Supreme Court just allowed a wedge to be inserted into the first amendment's protection of our right to criticize the government. Sledgehammers are being readied to drive that wedge further...

When Congress exempts ITSELF from a law it expects us peasants to live under, it's safe to say it's a bad law they are passing.

Sign Me Up! (4, Interesting)

qw(name) (718245) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821202)

I guess when the first email arrives from my representative or senator I will start using their email address when signing up for free offers and sweepstakes. That should give them lots of input from their constituents.

Following their example: it's ok as long as nobody says it's not.

I can see,The penis party, the Nigerian Party... (5, Funny)

enronman (664750) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821208)

I think spammers are going to start a bunch of lil grassroots political parties. They will band together and form the penis party, and sell penis creams, pills, and lord knows what else to "support" the party.
The only real solution is to have terrorists start using spam to fund their operations... only with that boogieman out of the closet will congress do anything about spam.

Re:I can see,The penis party, the Nigerian Party.. (1)

mattjb0010 (724744) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821267)

They will band together and form the penis party

Finally, a party for the small people!

Re:I can see,The penis party, the Nigerian Party.. (0, Troll)

WCMI92 (592436) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821697)

" I think spammers are going to start a bunch of lil grassroots political parties. They will band together and form the penis party, and sell penis creams, pills, and lord knows what else to "support" the party.
The only real solution is to have terrorists start using spam to fund their operations... only with that boogieman out of the closet will congress do anything about spam"

Don't be so sure that terrorists aren't already into spam... Or at least into profiting off the fradulent "products" that 99% of spam seems to hawk...

Terrorist groups are the new mafia in the world. The underworld tends to fund itself by the illegal. IMHO, ppammers like Ralsky would gladly sell spam services to Al Queida for a fast buck to hawk fake penis pills supplied from some Palestinian placebo factory, that is, if his observed morals are consistent...

I consider spam ITSELF to be a form of terrorism. It has made my e-mail services virtually useless. Spam is now up to 90% of all the e-mail I receive. That is up from 60% only 6 months ago. As far as I'm concerned, rounding them up and holding them in Cuba without trial and without access to lawyers (while blasting inane commercials at them 24/7) is too good for them.

Re:I can see,The penis party, the Nigerian Party.. (1)

jcenters (570494) | more than 10 years ago | (#7822030)

How is the parent a troll? For the love of (insert name of preferred deity here), everything this guy has said in this thread makes sense and should probably be modded up.

Re:I can see,The penis party, the Nigerian Party.. (1)

mcpkaaos (449561) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821958)

The penis party

Otherwise known as a Slashdot Meetup.

Forged emails + politics=Fun (4, Insightful)

enronman (664750) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821217)

There is the old story about the guy who takes a stack of bumper stickers for the opposing canidate and puts one on every cars bumper... With political spam it becomes SO much easier and fun. With to a bit of tech savy and good writting a great many fake messages could be sent out. I dare any politican to use this hardcore, because the backlash that could be unleashed against them would be frightfull once people learn that you really CAN get eail from your congresman!

Re:Forged emails + politics=Fun (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821545)

There is the old story about the guy who takes a stack of bumper stickers for the opposing canidate and puts one on every cars bumper... With political spam it becomes SO much easier and fun.
OT but still amusing... Years ago, the PvdA party (one of the opposition parties in Holland) made a bumper sticker that read "OUT with the CDA, IN with the PvdA". (The CDA was the incumbent at the time).

The stickers proved wildly popular with CDA voters, who pasted them on trash cans, wastebaskets and dumpsters all over town.

Gegoraphical Location (1)

lxt (724570) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821226)

Surely the biggest problem polititians have is, unlike normal spam, the audience they are trying to reach is located in a very specific area. Mass emailing simply wouldn't work - although there may on most spam be a 0.1% response rate, this would be reduced even further to virtually nil when location is factored in. Even "spam lists" would have some degree of innacuracy when it comes to location of the recipitant. Maybe I'm missing something...

They are buying smart lists... (1)

MadAnthony02 (626886) | more than 10 years ago | (#7822075)

The NYT article says that what they are doing is taking voter "consumer information" (ie credit bureau) companies like Equifax that have email info. SInce chances are both Equifax and your voter registartion info contain your address, they can taget it pretty effectively. This isn't spam in the sense that it's not targeted, just in the sense that it's not wanted.

what i can't understand is.. (2, Insightful)

zr (19885) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821236)

..since when geeks (please no offence, myself included) look to the government to legislate our way out of spam?! whats wrong with you people? shame on you, M$ is proving [slashdot.org] to be geekier than you!..

No offence? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821957)

You're on slashdot, you gotta wear that pocket protector with pride!

This is great, hopefully the start of a trend (1)

Xendarq (685809) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821238)

Next up:
o SCO contributes to the Linux kernel
o the RIAA releases RIAA/Kazaa for file swapping

By the logic of Congress, neither action would invalidate their respective lawsuits.

Re:This is great, hopefully the start of a trend (1)

RevRa (1728) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821246)

Next up:
o SCO contributes to the Linux kernel


They already did, now they're trying to take it back. :-)

Could simple email filters win out? (2, Interesting)

darnok (650458) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821240)

Are politicians required to send this email from specific email addresses e.g. your_faithful_candidate@congress.wankers.gov? It seems like they should be (i.e. in order to prove their spam is actually "from a political organization", it should at least come from a traceable *and documented* source), in which case a few simple email filters could make the problem essentially disappear.

Thankfully I'm not a US citizen, so my exposure to this sort of rubbish is, oh, probably 2-3 years away...

Re:Could simple email filters win out? (2, Interesting)

lxs (131946) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821301)

Thankfully I'm not a US citizen, so my exposure to this sort of rubbish is, oh, probably 2-3 years away...

Don't count on it. I don't live in the US, I've never been to the US. But I still get many spams telling me that I can swindle the US tax system. I think the whole world will suffer the spam fallout of local US elections.

Commercial (3, Insightful)

Threni (635302) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821252)

Spam is generally defined as being `unsolicited commercial email`. How spam from the political wing of the armed forces can be described as commercial is anyone's guess.

Re:Commercial (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821269)

I'd describe it as 'boo-yakka'.

Re:Commercial (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821281)

His it cos I is black?

Re:Commercial (1)

StenD (34260) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821365)

It's 'unsolicited bulk email'. Spam is spam, irregardless of the content.

Re:Commercial (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821437)

And regardless of your use of a nonexistent word.

Re:Commercial - Read CANSPAM (1)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821366)

in the recently passed CANSPAM bill, SPAM is explicitly defined as Commercial Email.

So this Political SPAM is perfectly legal.

Not only that, but said bill also legislates opt-out - which means any and every JimBOB spammer has the legal right to SPAM you once (assuming he follows a handfull of basic rules).

So now all spammers need to do is recycle Business Entities like they do ISP accounts, and it's all Perfectly Legal and there's nothing you can do about it.

All the SPAM you can stomach, and then some, for ever and ever.

Re:Commercial (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821378)

They *are* trying to sell something - in this case themselves (like prostitution, except it doesn't pay as well).

A better definition of spam is UBE not UCE - unsolicited *bulk* email. My own personal definition is "If I didn't *explicitly* ask for it, it's spam".

Re:Commercial (1)

WCMI92 (592436) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821708)

" Spam is generally defined as being `unsolicited commercial email`. How spam from the political wing of the armed forces can be described as commercial is anyone's guess."

Consider that the government is the largest business in the country. It takes in more money, and spends more money than any other. It is one of, if not the largest advertisers. It tries to sell services. It tries to get you to let it control more of your life every day.

The only difference between the government and a corporation is that the government has guns. LOTS of guns. And the authority to back up it's EULA with deadly force ;)

They want your support... (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821993)

...in order to get to the money. The politicians wants votes, so they get to keep their jobs as representatives ($$$) and maybe some campaign contributions to boot ($$$). What the armed forces want, I dunno. But I don't really care if it is commercial or not, as long as it's bulk.

I think the definition of SPAM should be "unsolicitated bulk email" as well as UCE. Whatever your message is, you don't have the right to mass dump it on a bunch of strangers and expect them to carry the cost. It'd be like throwing flyers on the street, so that "anyone can pick it up, and if you don't like it, just ignore it", except that someone has to carry that cost in the end. It's online littering.

Kjella

Re:Commercial (2, Informative)

McDutchie (151611) | more than 10 years ago | (#7822402)

Spam is generally defined as being `unsolicited commercial email`
Er, no. A definition that is at least as common, and makes a lot more sense, is "unsolicited bulk email".

It is the Members responsibility to inform (4, Informative)

Chatmag (646500) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821273)

It's the Congressional Members duty to keep their constituents informed. In a representative government, our elected officials must promote two way communication.

The Congress Online Project [congresson...roject.org] Nine Benefits of a good web site, number 3: "Targeted communication with key audiences. Web sites can help build ongoing relationships with key audiences by providing targeted features and information. Timely, informative sections of a Web site devoted to a single issue, for example, can attract people who care about the issue and keep them coming back for more. And issue-based e-mail updates provide the opportunity to regularly communicate with people who subscribe."

In order to fulfill the requirements of the Congressional "Franking" priviledge, Members would have to clearly identify emails sent to their constituents, with proper headers, From address, etc.

Also, in order to provide documentation that they are reaching their constituents, they would most likely be required to maintain an email mailing list.

I highly doubt that the Members would use the shotgun email tactic of spammers.

Re:It is the Members responsibility to inform (2, Insightful)

WCMI92 (592436) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821714)

If they want to keep us informed... PUT UP A WEBSITE. That way, if I want to go there, I can.

There is nothing in the Constitution that says that we, the people, are obligated to listen to ANYONE in our government. The reverse, however is true though.

They asked for it (3, Funny)

davmoo (63521) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821310)

Any politician that spams me will most definitely *not* get my vote. I'll vote for Fidel Castro for President before I'll vote for a scumbag spammer.

Re:They asked for it (1)

batlike (735980) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821348)

That should be easy: just check the only radio button on the balot and you're done.

Re:They asked for it (1)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821368)

Any politician that spams me will most definitely *not* get my vote.
And of course you never get spam with a faked From: line...

Surprising? (4, Interesting)

blankmange (571591) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821372)

And why should any of us be surprised by this? The politicians want to regulate it as long as it doesn't apply to them. I think that would cover quite a few things, not just spam.

TERM LIMITS! (2, Interesting)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821391)

These guys need to go... ALL of them. This country really needs to take back control of itself. Watch some Cspan folks, watch these guys debate in the house, watch the senate, watch all of the other covered events... watch these guys like a hawk. They're all slick, they all play each other for fools. Enough cnn, fox news, msnbc(does anyone watch it anyways?) and hell even the bbc is looking more like cnn these days. They have this game called politics down to a science called bullshit. You linux users know this as FUD :)

Oh my god! (3, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821402)

You mean that we might see more than 98% of incumbents re-elected [commoncause.org] ?

A 5-1 funding advantage is what does that. Spamming voters can't exactly make it worse.

Re:Oh my god! (0)

Chainsaw Messiah (223587) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821506)

Yeap, nothing's going to change while we have professional politicians running things. My current voting strategy is to skip the Presidential vote and for the rest vote against every incumbent of any party.

Re:Oh my god! (2, Insightful)

WCMI92 (592436) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821739)

"You mean that we might see more than 98% of incumbents re-elected [commoncause.org]?

A 5-1 funding advantage is what does that. Spamming voters can't exactly make it worse."

Don't forget that so-called "campaign finance reform" now makes it illegal for you and me to pool our money to criticize an incumbent 30-90 days before an election in any meaningful way that might be seen or heard by other voters...

That law should have been called the "Incumbency Protection Illegal Constitutional Convention of 2002".

Limiting contributions to candidates is one thing. Implying that *I* am part of the corruption problem if *I* and others choose to excercise free speech to criticize a politician is offensive, insulting, and flat out WRONG.

I'm still stunned the Supreme Court upheld it. Expect more and more laws from Congress abridging the freedom of speech, now that the wedge has been driven.

I'm waiting for the CFR "website blackout" law that will be next. We will have to black out our poltiical commentary, blogs, message boards, etc, Google will have to disable search results that hit critique of a candidate, etc...

Re:Oh my god! (1)

dacetone (177878) | more than 10 years ago | (#7822318)

I hate to quote the crazy guy with the sign [nwsource.com] , but "Politicians and Diapers need to be changed for the same reason." Saw that one on my way down to see the family, and for once, agreed with the sign.

gee whiz (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821434)

"According to this NY Times article (registration required), while Congressional members were busy passing the U.S. anti-spam law that will go into effect on January 1, they were also busy sending unsolicited e-mail to their constituents."

Since when is a pack of criminals acting like a pack of criminals newsworthy?

"Consumer advocacy groups say that this policy may be unfair to the challengers because this loophole could be used by elected officials to communicate with voters right up to Election Day."

No shit, sherlock.

Public record? (4, Interesting)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821441)

If the email is sent using government, rtaher than private or party equipment, doe sthe list become a record that can be obtained using FOIA (Freedom of Information Act?) If so, Congress could very well help spammers harvest email addresses for at lost less than buying an email database that has been matched to records.

If you can get the list, how long before someone spoofs a Congressman's addresse and sends his or her constiuents an email that upsets them and forces the rep to deal with the backlash?

Re:Public record? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821485)

"how long before someone spoofs a Congressman's addresse and sends his or her constiuents an email that upsets them and forces the rep to deal with the backlash?"

couldn't be soon enough.

Re:Public record? (1)

mangastudent (718064) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821626)

If the email is sent using government, rather than private or party equipment, does the list become a record that can be obtained using FOIA (Freedom of Information Act?)

Could be --- but it won't matter for the Congress. Due to the principle of separation of powers, the Congress pretty much has to be exempt from FOIA or anything else enforced by the Executive branch. Can anyone confirm this?

(That's the good explanation for why they are "above the law". They have to be to help prevent abuses by the Executive branch. The powers of the "purse" and ultimately impeachment back this up, but this tends to stop things before it gets ugly --- an imperfect but stable system.)

fuck the vote buyers, use rbl's to block em (1)

Indy1 (99447) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821458)

I am sure the second some vote buying piece of shit starts to spam, the major blacklists will list them. Nothing like a spews listing to bitch slap common sense into a spammer and his isp.

Re:fuck the vote buyers, use rbl's to block em (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7822418)

What if they pass a law to make it illegal to block .gov email sites?

As for your sig I bet Mr. Jedi would be on his knees begging for mercy and coughing up $3000+ dollars in a settlement if they came knocking at your door with a lawsuit.

Really not as bad as it sounds... (3, Informative)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821524)

From the article:
The lists, which each have tens of thousands of addresses, are generally created by a process called e-mail appending, taking voter registration files from a member's district. The next step is to cross match them with large databases of names and e-mail addresses assembled by consumer data companies like Equifax, which has a database of more than 75 million e-mail addresses. E-mail addresses can usually be found for 10 percent to 20 percent of the voter file.

...
The new policy says that lawmakers can freely send messages to voters who have agreed to subscribe to their e-mail lists. To build such lists, House members are sending huge amounts of bulk e-mail messages to their districts in the hope that some voters will subscribe.
...
The unsolicited messages go out from Congressional offices as often as twice a month. The unsolicited messages, which have to stop 90 days before an election or a primary, are still subject to approval from the franking commission.


So...

- politicians are targetting their constituents only.
- the unsolicited messages are still subject to the 90-day rule, and only contain an invitation to subscribe to a mailing list.
- politicians are free to send whatever they please to people on the mailing list.

That all sounds fine to me... Congress isn't really placing themselves above the law, and the fact that they can spam those on their subscriber mailing list at the taxpayer's expense, doesn't bother me that much. In truth, they should just get rid of the entire 'franking privilege', not just this minor part of it.

But when all's said and done... if you spam me, I don't vote for you. It is that simple :)

Congress (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821589)

Congress is full of hooey. They have been for over two hundred years. Why this is newsworthy I don't know, unless it's just because it involves spammers, people most of us respect almost as much as we respect our Congressional representatives. Oh wait ... these spammers are Congresspeople. Now what are we going to do?

DNS RBL? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821681)

So, will house.gov be added to the spamhaus lists? :)

"For the people"? (1)

Quantum-Sci (732727) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821798)

It's the Congressional Members duty to keep their constituents informed. In a representative government, our elected officials must promote two way communication.

We are supposed to be having a representational government [alternet.org] ? Virtually every Congressional action taken in the past three years has been counter-publius.

In this day, the public library system would -never- have been created. (Socialistic, not-for-profit, communist idea of) sharing information with the undeserving unwashed. Hey, who's supposed to -pay- for a library system?!

And look how costs escalate over five years, with "absolutely nothing" to show for it! If someone thinks they deserve to have certain information, they'll hunt it down and buy it --or steal it-- like normal people do in Thunderdome.

Will Congress make the SPEWS list? (2, Interesting)

satch89450 (186046) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821885)

As a SysAdmin I've been studying the DNS-based blocking lists in general and SPEWS in particular. Seeing how they say they operate, how long do you think it will take for the US Government to "win" an escalated listing in the SPEWS database?

"I'm sorry, Congressman, but the reason all your mail is being bounced is that our server IP address is listed in SPEWS. What is SPEWS? 'Spam Prevention Early Warning System.' Because we have been unable to answer complaints to abuse@house.net to their satisfaction, they have put together a 'crimes file' showing that The House of Representatives is a spam-lovin enterprise, have listed our entire netblock, and we've run out contractors to superserve our mail servers -- every time we hire one, it ends up listed in SPEWS, too."

Will the blocking lists work as they are supposed to, or are they going to take the smart path and NOT piss off the one organization who makes the "Laws of the Land?"? I can see it now: it becomes illegal for any operator of a mail server with more than 100 commercial clients to use any DNS- or domain-based blocking list.

Not exactly the death of the Internet, but possibly a case of felony if you do, damned if you don't.

opted-in (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 10 years ago | (#7822185)

As a constituent, one is opted-in to one's representative's messages by default. A civic duty, it is debatable only whether it should even be possible to opt out. It's bad enough not to read an email from your representative, though that is your right. But if you opt out of the direct notification, and opt to get your government info through only, say, Fox News, perhaps you should also give up your 911 phone service, and maybe even your subscription to the police. The fire department will have to keep coming, to protect your subscribed neighbors, but they might not have to rescue you or your pets. We need *more* and *better* government communication, not more constituent alienation.

Loophole in thinking. (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 10 years ago | (#7822287)

Spam is not the way.

Typical outcome of sending 1.000.000 spam messages is 100 happy (though dumb) customers, 10.000 really pissed off people and mostly indifferent but rather hostile rest. The profit is no loss from those 10.000 and profit from those 100.

But if you send out spam to your voters, divided fifty-fifty for and against, the outcome is 50 votes gained (the other 50 would vote for you anyway) and 5.000 votes lost (people who decide they won't vote on a party that uses spam)

So... feel free to send. Just remember: Winners don't use spam!
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