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Should We Spam Proxies to China?

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the or-just-viagra-ads dept.

Censorship 282

Frequent Slashdot Contributor Bennett Haselton is back with a story about fighting censorship with spam. He starts "Is it OK to send unsolicited e-mail to users in China, Iran, and other censored countries, telling them about new proxy sites for getting around Internet censorship? I hasten to add that I have NOT done this, am not planning on doing it and would not have any idea how to go about it anyway. Between the various companies that offer proxy services, I don't know of anyone who is doing it (no, not even people who swore me to secrecy about it). But I think the question involves ethical issues that would not apply to most discussions of spam." Hit that big link below to read the rest of his words.

Lest there be any doubt, I hate spam, getting about 10,000 of them a week with no way to filter them without blocking at least some of my important mail as well; I've tried suing some spammers mostly without success, and humbly proposed one anti-spam algorithm which caught on like wildfire, if the wildfire were spreading through a... rainforest, in the... rain. But I am not against spam a priori (Latin for "unless they are telling me I need to add extra inches"), I'm against spam because that follows from other principles, and in some situations there is some question as to whether those principles still apply. (It is not as simplistic as saying that it is OK to spam "for the greater good". Stay with me!)

Getting back to basics: Why is spam a problem? Because the cost of receiving a message, however minor, is more than the benefits, which are usually microscopic considering the probability that a typical recipient would buy what they're selling. Take a small cost that exceeds a small benefit, multiply by millions of messages per day, and the cost exceeds the benefit by about $70 billion per year.

But, just as a thought experiment, could you conceive of a kind of spam that would not be a nuisance? Suppose you sent an e-mail to millions of people offering them free $20 bills. And you actually followed through and sent the money to anybody who claimed the offer. Then the conventional argument against spam no longer applies, because the e-mails are benefitting people more than they're costing them. It's hard to think of any real-life examples, but if you had sent out mass e-mails telling people about the refund checks for anybody who had bought a CD (it was real, I got my $13.86 in the mail in 2004), I probably wouldn't have come to your house to egg your windows.

"Aha!" some spammer is thinking, "my product does benefit people more than the e-mail costs them! I can help them refinance their homes at a low rate, to take out money they can multiply many times with my new stock tip, and then spend at my friend Tiffanee's new site to help pay her way towards her physics degree!" Wait. Let's just say that you're offering some miracle product at a low price, conferring some huge benefit on each person who buys it. The only costs of spreading your bounty to the world, are whatever advertising costs are incurred in getting the word out. But if your product is really the miracle you say it is, then the benefits to people (even after subtracting the price they paid for it), exceed the costs of the advertising.

Then you have several choices. You can spam to advertise the product. In this case, the costs of the advertising are passed on to unwilling recipients. But if the benefits your product confers are greater than the cost of getting people's attention, then you've still arguably done more good than harm to the world, even if the net effect on some individual people was harmful (on annoyed recipients who didn't end up buying your product). By forcing the advertising costs on other people, you've saved that much more money; you can pocket that benefit yourself, or if you pass on the savings in the form of reduced prices (which you may have to do in a competitive market anyway), you've basically transferred that much benefit by stealing it from the spam recipients and distributing it to your customers. So the main benefit to the world was the wonderfulness of your product, and on top of that, you stole some small benefit from a large number of people and redistributed it to other people, which has no positive or negative net effect.

But, because the benefits of the product outweigh the costs of the advertising, that means in a mostly-free country where your product is legal, you can also buy advertisements to get people's attention, pass the costs on to the customers in the form of slightly higher prices, and have benefits for them left over (otherwise they wouldn't still buy what you're selling). The customers still get the major benefit, the benefit of owning your awesome product. What's missing in this case is the small extra benefit that they were getting before, from you stealing from all the spam recipients and passing the savings on to them.

So for that reason, spammers are prohibited from saying "The benefits of my products exceed the costs of people's attention span to read about it, so it's OK for me to spam", by the reply: "If the benefits really exceed the costs, then you can buy advertising to tell people about it like everyone else."

But now the big question: Would that argument still hold if you wanted to advertise proxies to people in China and Iran?

It doesn't seem that you could use conventional channels to advertise proxies to Chinese and Iranian users. If you bought ads on Google AdSense or a similar ad-serving network, China might threaten to block all ads served from that network unless they started screening out ads for anti-censorship services (especially in the case of Google, which seems to comply with most Chinese self-censorship demands). Then there's the question of how to charge Chinese and Iranian users even small amounts for the services. It would not be a good idea to have the charges show up on their credit cards issued by Chinese banks. Paying small amounts with PayPal would be a little bit better since the charge would simply show up from "PayPal", without revealing the recipient. And since all traffic to the PayPal site is encrypted over SSL, Chinese censors wouldn't be able to detect or block users who were paying to circumvent the Great Firewall, unless they blocked all traffic to the PayPal site. But could PayPal be leaned on to provide the identities of Chinese users who were paying for circumvention services, under threat of having their site blocked otherwise? And the biggest impediment of all would be that once you start charging even $1 for a service, there's a huge dropoff in people willing to sign up, even if they would have to spend much more than $1 worth of effort to find a free alternative somewhere else.

So, if circumvention services provide enough benefit to Chinese users, maybe spamming proxy sites would do more good than harm, and if the lack of freedom in the country means that you could not sell or advertise the services to Chinese users by conventional means, maybe that means spamming the proxy locations would be the only way to do this.

Reading over this, I just realized that if you also believed that pot was beneficial to society, this could also justify spamming to advertise pot. I expect we'll all start getting marijuana spam just as soon as the pothead reading this gets around to it... on, like Tuesday... maybe. Just make sure they don't really get their act together enough to get pot legalized, because if that happens, they lose their rationale for spamming to advertise it! (Thinking about the pot question more seriously, I'd say that if the government banned sales and advertisements of something beneficial like milk, then spamming to advertise milk would be a good thing. The only real argument against spamming for pot is that it isn't as beneficial as milk.)

So that's the mathematical argument in a nutshell:

  1. Spam is bad because the costs to society are greater than the benefits. This would not be the case if you were spamming to advertise something whose benefits were greater than the costs of the spam.
  2. However, in a mostly-free country where your product is legal to sell, #1 should never be used to justify spamming, because if the benefits of your product are really greater than the costs of the advertising, you can pay for the advertising, add the costs on to the cost of the product, and still have benefits left over to split between the seller and the customer.
  3. #2 is not true in non-free countries like China, in which case if a product conferred more benefits than the costs of the spam but was not legal to sell, it might be OK to spam it.

Perhaps this logic is flawed, and I'm sure some people will tell me why they think so. The other question is whether these circumvention services really provide as much benefit to the Chinese and Iranians as those of us who run the services would like to believe. Earlier I argued that the real obstacle to most anti-censorship services is apathy on the part of the target audience, and that it was an unpleasant surprise, when I found some Chinese users on MSN Messenger to ask for help with some technical issue, to find that most of them either supported the Chinese government's censorship or didn't care enough to do anything about it. So for proxy spam to be defensible, it should -- come on, all together now, I can't believe I'm quoting the members of the industry that is the bane of my existence -- include an unsubscribe link that users can click to stop receiving any further e-mails. And a postal return address! Because who could have any cause to complain about an unsolicited e-mail that includes the sender's full mailing address in the footer?

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282 comments

it's still spam (-1, Flamebait)

mbcx4jrh (264055) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293567)

its still spam you spanner! just becuase you like it doesnt mean anyone else wants it. You're just as bad as the morons you rant against.

what a f**king gimp!

Re:it's still spam (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#20293645)

Agreed. What a fucking tool. Hey, millions of people are suffering from serious health issues because of a poor diet: let's spam all of North America and Europe with information on how to eat healthy! Then we can spam all of Africa and Asia with information on how to avoid contracting AIDS.

SPAM isn't O.K just because you agree with the message.

Re:it's still spam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#20293715)

And now he's spammed slashdot. Troll, anyone?

Re:it's still spam (2, Insightful)

Sorthum (123064) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293757)

Spam is Unsolicited Bulk Email.

Unsolicited-- you didn't ask for it.

Bulk-- Multiple copies of the same thing.

Email -- Self explanatory.

Plus I haven't yet heard of a good way to identify which country an email address terminates in. Spamming someone in Wisconsin with free proxy addresses is unwanted.

Re:it's still spam (3, Interesting)

InsaneProcessor (869563) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294163)

Since most of the spam that I get links to web sites in China, and come from China, spam to china may not be a bad thing here. Let them get a dose of what they spit out.

Re:it's still spam (0)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293875)

You sir, are a moron. He asked if there were any instance where spam could be considered a "good thing". Your only argument against him is that it's spam. I'm sorry, but I think he knows that. You seem awfully proud that you can tell when someone is talking about spam, and so that I pat you on the head and give you a treat. Who's a good boy? Yes you are! Look it's spam! Find it! Sick em! Good boy! Anyways, what about the case of a mass murderer? I would think spam could be very useful in a case like that, so long as it is a potentially imminent threat to those who receive the spam. I.e. people in Alaska shouldn't be getting spam about a murderer on the loose in Orange County. That's still kinda iffy though.

Re:it's still spam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#20294145)

Would it be correct to say that the GP's reply to the submitter is "begging the question"? I always get confused about the pedantically correct way to use that phrase.

The road to hell is paved w/ good intentions (5, Insightful)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293889)

Would that argument still hold if you wanted to advertise proxies to people in China and Iran? Just getting email like that could get the recepients thrown in jail. Want to help people in countries like that? Read up on their INTERNAL human rights movements and work in solidarity. Give them credit for being able to lead their own struggles. Nobody likes an interfering nosy parker.

Re:The road to hell is paved w/ good intentions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#20294343)

MOD PARENT UP!

International Incident (2, Insightful)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294399)

With all apologies to Stan Freberg...

A private group would be ill advised to spam Chinese proxies. While China remains an outcast, they are a heavy-weight U.S. trading partner (I'm assuming the same for most EU nations have trading relationships with China as well).

When they weild that much power, China can basically "order" the U.S. to find and prosecute the "spammers". This is basically what happened with the U.S., Russia, and AllofMP3, except it was Russia being told by the U.S. to handle the problem.

Does anyone seriously think the U.S. Government, under these circumstances, would not fold to Chinese pressure?

Think very hard before doing this one.

Responsibility (2, Insightful)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293575)

Hasn't China, in the past, executed people who were convicted of intentionally bypassing the Great Firewall and proving the means to do so to others? Will the people who receive lists of proxy servers be punished for possessing them? If not, could China begin to use such punishment as a deterrent to those sending the lists out?

Re:Responsibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#20293779)

They only executed those who were turned over by Yahoo and Microsoft.

So just need to send them vmware player with something like Linux or BSD on it that allows them to bypass both.

Not well thought out (5, Insightful)

ILikeRed (141848) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294003)

Talk about making it easy for Chinese secret police as well - we will train Chinese internet users to trust proxies sent to them in anonymous spam. Their government will NEVER think to make their own proxies and anonymous spam to catch users attempting to break the law and bypass their filters.

If only it were that simple (2, Insightful)

rastoboy29 (807168) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293597)

The problem isn't that there aren't any technological workarounds to censorship.  The problem is that the governments are allowed to get away with it, and users have to _know_ that they are breaking the law by circumventing it.

The problem can only be properly resolved by changing the law in those countries which do this.

Re:If only it were that simple (1)

Aim Here (765712) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293751)

But one way of changing a law is to make it completely unenforceable by a mass civil disobedience campaign aimed at breaking that law, so that the authorities give up on the massive waste of resources needed to enforce it. For that, you'd probably want everyone and his dog to be using these censorship workarounds, rather than just the select elite cognoscenti, so finding some method of advertising the workarounds would be in order.

To answer the original query, though, I reckon that 'Spammers against censorship' is probably a bad idea. To attempt to counteract obnoxious behavior by a government with obnoxious behaviour aimed squarely at its victims seems to be both counterproductive (people will hate you for it and might oppose your cause) and unethical (you're doing a big pile of harm to the people you want to liberate). So no.

Re:If only it were that simple (4, Insightful)

evilandi (2800) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293877)

But one way of changing a law is to make it completely unenforceable by a mass civil disobedience campaign

Never, ever, assume that "not being able to execute huge numbers of people fast enough" is equivalent to "unenforcable".

Re:If only it were that simple (5, Insightful)

nuzak (959558) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294219)

> But one way of changing a law is to make it completely unenforceable by a mass civil disobedience campaign

You first. I suggest a nice busy and visible public space, like Tianmen Square.

Re:If only it were that simple (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#20294525)

I don't think that would be a good place... my google.cn search of Tiananmen Square says that nothing like this has ever occurred there before.

Re:If only it were that simple (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294335)

"finding some method of advertising the workarounds would be in order."

Of course, advertising the workarounds may quite likely be the best way to get any such workarounds quickly and throughly shut down.

If I were a nefarious government out to block such bypasses I'd simply thank those spammers for the blocklists and auto-blacklist every such proxy (except the ones I was setting up myself to observe who were using them in case I needed to make some examples in the future).

Mass distribution is pointless as a way of censorship avoidance; darknets are the way to go, as you fundamentally have to solve the trust issue.

Dont worry tho, the MAFIAA has put sufficiently strong evolutionary pressure on the technology that various forms of darknet communications will become the norm rather than the exception, which will make monitoring and control of any communications near impossible for anyone anyway. For better or worse.

Re:If only it were that simple (2, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293811)

"The problem is that the governments are allowed to get away with it" Exactly how can the government of Iran or China be prevented from getting away with it? Unless of course you are advocating either that those countries should have a revolution, or that the US should invade them. I'm not going to say that you are wrong if you are advocating revolution in those countries, however, it is important that it be remembered that, unlike in most first world countries, the people of China and Iran (and most other countries with strong internet censorship) do not have the ability to change the laws of their country without some sort of violent revolution or outside intervention.

Re:If only it were that simple (4, Insightful)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293831)

I don't suppose anyone would agree with me if I said that we should just let the people in that country deal with their government the way they see fit? There are many places around the world right now that see the inbred offspring of the private sector and government in the US as a de-facto totalitarian state, but if anyone decided to assist in freeing the American people from the yokes of the capitalism cum fascism system, they'd get labeled "terrorist" on short order. Here's a novel idea: Leave other countries and societies alone. It didn't work in Vietnam, it resulted in untold misery and suffering in Chile and its causing the same suffering in Afghanistan and Iraq. Interfering in other peoples' lives, even if you *do* mean well (which governments never do), very rarely works, if ever.

This is like the pro-christian spam I get (5, Insightful)

eodmightier (208901) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293611)

Look spam is spam. I'm sure when the christian folks spam me about the lord or whatever nonsense, they really feel they are doing the right thing. I still don't want it though.

The people over there who know about the proxies don't want to see your spam. If anything this would do nothing more than make the situation worse and you'd probably see a tighting down of their firewall system.

Re:This is like the pro-christian spam I get (1)

obergfellja (947995) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293799)

so basically, no matter what the cause or the email message, if the receiver does not want the email, (even if it is from a friend, it is considered SPAM. I totally agree with that.

Re:This is like the pro-christian spam I get (3, Interesting)

couchslug (175151) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294019)

The OP was really asking the wrong question.

The question should have been "What are the best ways to help interested Chinese find information the help them circumvent government censorship?.

One way might be to make such information available on websites visited by Chinese. Instead of a proxy IP address, a picture of that IP address might help evade automated searches. Remember how the "Devils Own" XP key was distributed as a .jpeg? Sites could carry "informative pictures" and update them frequently.

except it doesnt matter if the legit gets there (4, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293625)

the problem is that it isn't below China and Iran to just block EVERYTHING that remotely resembles a method around the great firewalls they set up. the power to filter what people see overrides any consideration for getting legit emails/ads to the user. and unlike in many countries in the western world the government has no problem delving into technology to fix this little problem.

Re:except it doesnt matter if the legit gets there (1)

aldousd666 (640240) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293847)

I think you're right, I mean, perhaps they ban any and everything (only chinese ranges/subnets allowed, etc) they don't already know about, then proxies are good for jack shit... I mean you can make rules for ipaddress ranges and subnets, or even coming from/to specific hosts, so it's simple enough for them just to
A) stop your spam from coming in.
2) Filter out attempts to connect to proxies
D) Kill the people trying to do it in the name of the Republic.
My tongue-in-cheekness aside I think the OP is quite possibly chasing his own tail up a red herrings ass on this one. Kinda like one might when they've been smoking a little too much pot....

No for two reasons (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293627)

1) It is still unsolicited e-mail. You may think that there's something I really, really want. You may believe to the core of your being it is something I care about. You may still be wrong. There may well be people in those restricted countries that just don't give a shit. Perhaps all of the web they care about is allowed through the filters. Thus they really don't want to hear from you.

2) More importantly e-mail is not secure. The government will find out, they will monitor the spam, and they will use that to either block your proxies or arrest those that use them or whatever. Sending an unsecured plain text message advertising something illegal in a country known to monitor the Internet is, well, stupid.

Re:No for two reasons (1)

metlin (258108) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293733)

Or worse yet, they may monitor those who receive the spam and pick them out for "preferential treatment" - and the next time one of them uses the proxy, their family maybe sent a bullet and a bill.

Are you ready to take the responsibility for that?

Re:No for two reasons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#20294385)

-snip-Or worse yet, they may monitor those who receive the spam and pick them out for "preferential treatment" - and the next time one of them uses the proxy, their family maybe sent a bullet and a bill.-/snip-

Hey, it works for me - start sending the emails asap, because the more citizens their government offs, the fewer they will have to conscript into their army. And you know we will have to fight them sooner or later, because they want the same things we do - oil, metals, etc. And it should be sooner, because they are starting to get too cozy with the Russians, who still want to "reeducate" western populations... it is our duty to make it happen! don't delay!

Re:No for two reasons (2, Insightful)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293791)

You could add to your second point that the government, if it wished, could produce these emails and claim that they indicate intent to do something illegal and therefore arrest anyone who received one, whether they acted upon it or not.

I doubt that totalitarian regimes require help in fabricating or identify evidence of arrestable offences, but there is no reason to make it easier for them.

Re:No for two reasons (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293815)

It is still unsolicited e-mail. You may think that there's something I really, really want.

Do you believe that in general (going beyond email here) it is wrong to solicit a non-free good or service to someone who has not explicitly invited that kind of offer?

And is there any clear way to ask that question with only one negative?

Re:No for two reasons (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293873)

1) It is still unsolicited e-mail. You may think that there's something I really, really want. You may believe to the core of your being it is something I care about. You may still be wrong. There may well be people in those restricted countries that just don't give a shit. Perhaps all of the web they care about is allowed through the filters. Thus they really don't want to hear from you.


Or maybe, just maybe, Chinese citizens will discover that there are countries where freedom of expression without fear of reprisal exists (it used to here in America but now can supposedly land you on a no-fly-list or worse) and they may discover things that they do care deeply about once they're exposed to it, and no, I am not referring to pr0n.

On merits of subversion (Re:No for two reasons) (2, Interesting)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294023)

1) It is still unsolicited e-mail. You may think that there's something I really, really want. You may believe to the core of your being it is something I care about. You may still be wrong. There may well be people in those restricted countries that just don't give a shit. Perhaps all of the web they care about is allowed through the filters. Thus they really don't want to hear from you.

Well then, the whole idea of subverting (covertly, overtly, or even militarily) a nasty government (even when its nastyness is not in doubt) is wrong — because there are always people, who agree with and support it and who will be annoyed, inconvenienced, or even killed in the process.

2) More importantly e-mail is not secure. The government will find out, they will monitor the spam, and they will use that to either block your proxies or arrest those that use them or whatever.

I really wish a method to reliably do what you describe existed. It would an end to the spamming problem, at least. Then I'll accept subverting the oppressive governments the old-fashioned way — via radio and TV broadcasts...

Re:On merits of subversion (Re:No for two reasons) (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294161)

Has anyone ever done a study, I wonder, on whether or not Radio America broadcasts were the reason for Cuban refugees to leave Cuba? I'm going to posit a guess that the answer is no; they left Cuba because a) they were tired of being poor, b) they were tired of being oppressed, or c) they had family already in the US.

I think the point is that whether or not this is a good idea may be subject to debate (though I still think it's a bad idea), but the underlying premise, that enough people will get the information to somehow cause the Chinese government problems is flawed. The Chinese people will have to begin any kind of revolution from within, just as the American colonies did. Outside sources could perhaps provide subtle influence, but it takes the internal determination of a people to make the ideas a reality. I don't think an email or a TV/Radio broadcast is going to bring about the fall of the Chinese government.

Re:On merits of subversion (Re:No for two reasons) (3, Insightful)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294473)

The Chinese people will have to begin any kind of revolution from within, just as the American colonies did.

That's a wrong view. Excusable, but wrong. American colonies faced a fairly benign oppressors (the King and the Parliament), who would shy away from mass-murder — the list of greivances [ushistory.org], while exposing the rule as ineffectual, mentions little bodily harm.

Cuban and North Korean governments, on contrast, are determined to apply whatever violence may be necessary to stay in power, which makes them stable in their rut. External agitation may or may not be enough kick them out of that stability, but it is certainly not wrong to try.

And yes, at some point, more tangible help may be needed. It was not just French King's money, mind you, but also French naval force and artillery that helped American colonies win their independence. And that would not be automatically wrong either.

Re:No for two reasons (4, Insightful)

malsdavis (542216) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294269)

3) Do people in those countries actually desire uncensored internet?

Although I personally hate the idea of censorship, the one thing I hate even more (or maybe equaly, but the two are closely related anyway) is others pushing their ethics and morales on me (e.g. Religious spam which is some of the most irritating around).

In the case of Iran in particular, there is no doubt that the current government was democratically elected by a large majority, despite the clear implication that the internet would be censored. Is there evidence that the average lay person (i.e. spam recipients) in these countries desire uncensored internet access?

If we start spamming them saying how they should all use methods to bypass censorship because we consider censorship immoral than we have to expect and support Iranians sending us spam saying how we should use censorship proxies (along with a plethora of "change your immoral, infidel culture" crap).

Re:No for two reasons (1)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294427)

1) It is still unsolicited e-mail. You may think that there's something I really, really want. You may believe to the core of your being it is something I care about. You may still be wrong. There may well be people in those restricted countries that just don't give a shit. Perhaps all of the web they care about is allowed through the filters. Thus they really don't want to hear from you.
That's how I feel about Slashdot sigs. Funny quotes, etc: those were ok. Then more and more people began putting advertising crap there (free iPod,/gmail account anyone?), so I turned off sigs in my preferences.

Then, people started using browser plugins, or just cutting and pasting, to add their crap to every message in a way that turning off sigs won't stop. So, my only recourse here is to mark those people as a Foe. I think some of these people genuinely think they're doing people a service. One in particular had something to do with solar energy, for example.

I don't care how positive your message is, if you attempt to force it on me by bypassing the filters I have in place, you have earned my contempt.

So, to answer TFA's question, No, it is not ok to spam people about your proxies, even if it's to advance the cause of freedom.

Short answer (4, Informative)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293649)

Is it OK to send unsolicited e-mail to users [...]

No.

Longer answer (4, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293755)

It is not okay to send things to people just because you think they need it. That includes instructions on how to avoid internet censorship, penis enlargement devices and democracy to middle-eastern countries.

Let's take an example: what if some chinese dude gets your email, and the chinese police raids his house because he's now on a dangerous dissidents list for having been in communication with, and detaining computer data from dangerous anti-censorship groups? Still think your kind email would be welcome?

Re:Longer answer (2, Insightful)

mrogers (85392) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294153)

It is not okay to send things to people just because you think they need it.
You just described all email. When I send someone a job application, or a photo of a cat with its head stuck in a jar, or a love letter, it's because I think the recipient wants to read it (of course I want them to read it too, but I wouldn't send it unless I thought they'd be interested). Email is inherently push-based, so it's always based on an assumption about what the other person might want to receive.

Re:Longer answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#20294649)

Email is inherently push-based, so it's always based on an assumption about what the other person might want to receive.

Not always. Some e-mail is sent to harass people. For example, the first spam king, Sanford Wallace, was known for massively increasing the amount of spam sent to people who complained about it. I'm sure this wasn't to increase sales.

no (2, Insightful)

jmyers (208878) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293651)

People who want to find information on the internet will find it. The "spam" will just be a great way for the censors to find and block the proxies.

Re:no (1)

BiggestPOS (139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294117)

Precisely what I was going to post. The problem with SPAMMING the list of proxies is you've made the list ubiquitous and easy to come by. It only takes *one* government official to see the list and forward to the right place before all those proxies cease to function for the everyone they were meant to help, the users in China!

DUH.

Consent, not Content (4, Interesting)

Kelson (129150) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293659)

If they didn't ask for it, and you still blast it out to a bunch of people, it's still unsolicited bulk email -- in other words, it's still spam.

Besides, think of the unintended consequences: You'd be making users used to accessing random proxies. How long before the malware writers start spamming "Hey, use our proxy!" and advertising their fake proxy which will send most traffic through, but will sniff usernames and passwords, and redirect certain sessions to phishing sites?

Re:Consent, not Content (2, Interesting)

hachiman (68983) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293879)

Go one step further... You, the governtment of a country that employs censorship, set up your own proxy and start spamming people in your own country about it. They log on to use it and, hey presto! You have their name, IP etc and can subtly keep an eye on what they are getting up to. After that, it's child's play to send out the heavy mob with the mini-van to go and collect the subversives.

Mind you, that's just being plain cynical. Surely no govertment would ever dream of doing something so sneaky or as bad as trying to entrap its own population so that it can quash people that think differently from the people in charge.

Hang on...

Re:Consent, not Content (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#20294499)

It's unsolicited bulk email. Spam is by nature commercial.

Re:Consent, not Content (0, Troll)

AAWood (918613) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294553)

"If they didn't ask for it, and you still blast it out to a bunch of people, it's still unsolicited bulk email -- in other words, it's still spam." I'm going to play Devil's Advocate here, for the sake of discussion. The argument above loses some of it's strength when you consider the people involved don't ask because they can't ask; this isn't like you or I not wanting information on mortgages or Viagra or whatever the spam of the month is. So 99% of recipients aren't looking for mortgage information... but what if the other 1% literally couldn't find out any other way? We're talking about e-mail as a person-to-person communication channel that shouldn't be used any other way; what if we drop that basic premise and rethink it for cases where where communications have to be sent TO you because there's no way for you to go to the information? Or should we lump in PSA's on TV for subjects that don't relate to you, road signs for locations you never drive, and any other methods where information is made present to us, whether we want it or not, and whether it directly applies to us? Should these pieces of information be directed also? What's the difference? A lot of the statements in this thread are based around the content and context of the spam being irrelevant to whether it's right or wrong to send it, and I'm not sure that's true. Many of the statements are also based on the concept that if many of the individuals wouldn't want the information that it shouldn't be sent, and I'm not sure that's true either; we can all think of situations in which governments, organisations and individuals have made decisions which are were seen as right (objectively or subjectively) for the populace at the expense of groups of individuals, rightly and wrongly. We don't like spam. Hey, it's Slashdot, of course we don't. I think the question is whether there are shades of gray where perhaps spamming would be acceptable... or, perhaps, situations where unsolicited mass-mailing isn't spam at all. In this case, it's worth considering that spam is spam because it's not information we chose to get, and which we could do ourselves if wanted... but when that choice is not given freely, and someone else, this fundementally changes it's nature. The Chinese government has chosen to restrict that access... the question is whether that choice should be over-ridden, and whether it should be left to the governments to do so by pressure, or the worldwide public to do so by subversion.

Absolutely not (4, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293665)

What you are essentially asking is if it's okay to share information you think would be valuable to oppressed people by spamming them. Your thought is to share proxy site information with them. That's all very noble, but you are talking about is essentially using spam as a tool to give people you don't know information you personally believe they will find valuable.

So, who is to say this information is the most valuable thing they could receive? What if I believe what these people really need to change their lives is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Would if be okay in your view for me to spam them with religious messages? Why not? What if I think they would really benefit by hearing the word of Allah?

You argue that the big problem with spam is that the benefit is small and the cost is large to the recipient. But, you say, this information is enormously beneficial to the recipient, so it's worth the cost they pay. The problem is, you as the sender are not the one who gets to make that call. The value of the email is determined by the recipient, not by the sender. As a sender, I may think that my discount C1al1s is enormously beneficial and far outweighs the miniscule cost of receiving an email, but I doubt the recipients of my message feel the same way.

There's also the problem of just how oppressive these governments are. Will recipients of these messages be subject to punishment by their governments just for having it in their inbox? Will the governments use the emails as an excuse to crack down on proxies and block even larger swaths of the Internet, thereby defeating the purpose? There's no way you could blanket spam a country without its government noticing and taking measures to defeat your efforts.

Your heart may be in the right place, but this method just isn't a good idea.

Re:Absolutely not (5, Funny)

charlesbakerharris (623282) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293765)

What if I believe what these people really need to change their lives is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Would if be okay in your view for me to spam them with religious messages?

I guess we could just call this guy a Good Spamaritan.

Outsource it (4, Funny)

biocute (936687) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293709)

would not have any idea how to go about it anyway

If India is too expensive, consider hiring Chinese to do this spam.

No (4, Insightful)

Leto-II (1509) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293719)

The people who really want to know already know.

The people who don't will just be annoyed by your spam.

And, by the way, the people who don't really care to know vastly outnumber those that do.

It won't work (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293729)

It's most probable that the authorities will end up receiving the spam - after tweaking their filters a bit, they'll update the Great Firewall to block the advertised proxies.

Um .. how does this work again? (3, Funny)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293731)

So let me get this straight ..

You want to advertise a service (proxy server) to a bunch of people in a foreign country.
But you don't want the authorities of that country to know because if they did they would just shut you down.
So you intend (in thought only at this stage) to spam everyone in the country telling them where the proxy is.

So where in your magical spamming service is the option that allows you to spam to the opressed people without sending the same spam to the authorities?

Re:Um .. how does this work again? (1)

AaxelB (1034884) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294195)

Thank you, I was hoping someone would post a nice summary of that long-ass essay. Sometimes I feel like reading, but sometimes it just doesn't seem worth my time.

Is it ok for them to spam you? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293745)

If so, then by all means go ahead. If not, then 2 wrongs don't make a right. ( or is that 2 lefts make you go backwards? )

um, yes! (2, Funny)

snarkasaurus (627205) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293773)

"Is it OK to send unsolicited e-mail to users in China, Iran, and other censored countries, telling them about new proxy sites for getting around Internet censorship?"

I think any lengthy agonizing over this question reveals the agonizer's ignorance of life under totalitarian rule. Anything which destroys the government stranglehold on information is good. Its actually one of the only legitimate uses of spam I can think of.

Re:um, yes! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#20293955)

Dude, you're a fucking idiot.

Just because YOU believe strongly in one way of life does not in any way, shape, or form mean that anyone else gives a flying fuck.

Re:um, yes! (2, Insightful)

dave420 (699308) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294103)

And when the authorities get a hold of this spam, block the proxies, and then punish those trying to use them? How does that fit into your idea of reality? Most folks in China don't give a rat's ass their internet access is blocked - they've got more important things on their minds than being able to surf the net without limits.

Who defines "the benefit"? (3, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293775)

This would not be the case if you were spamming to advertise something whose benefits were greater than the costs of the spam.
Who defines what the benefit is? As far as I'm concerned that'd be me, not you. I choose what I value, not you.

Spamming about giving away money would simply increase inflation if followed through. Giving everyone a million dollars simply makes a million dollars worthless.

 

getting around censorship (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293807)

is a cat and mouse game. and it has to remain that way. subtlety is sometimes the better tactic to fight an enemy. and in the case of a powerful central authority, subtety is necessary

in other words, to be effective, undermining authoritarianism has to be on the downlow, subtle. you have to understand the nature of the enemy here. the problem with a big bully sitting in the cat seat who is ready to do evil things in order to further his grip on power is that if you want to undermine him you can't do it loudly and in the open

or he'll simply kill you

a loud full frontal assault will fail, as you only reflexively empower the kind of minds and the power structure at work here: paranoid, nationalistic demagogues

the analogy here is that the internet is begrudgingly accepted by authoritarian regimes as sort of like television: it placates the masses. now, television is easy to control. someone says something on it you don't like to hear, you cut the signal. there are at most a few channels. with the internet, it is not the same: thousands of channels, some of them discreet and not well known. you need to KEEP IT THAT WAY

if the noise about how to get around censorship was too loud, the powers that be would simply shut off access. or build a stronger firewall. or simply announce with great fanfare that from now on, the internet would be iran-only, or china-only. that the decadent corrupt evils of the west would no longer be allowed to pollute young pure iranian and chinese minds. stoking the fire of nationalism is the surefired way to get anyone to approve of anything you want to do, no matter how backwards or brutal

so no: keep it quiet, keep it subtle. those who are interested in uncensored ideas will find a way, and those who wish to shut up contrarian voices and criticism, and do so frequently, and have no problem doing it with a gun or a cage, they will be one step behind

but stick it in their face, loud and proud, and you only invite the beast to do something beastly. the beast must be killed when it is asleep, and it's back is turned. you can't kill it head on. you must kill authoritarianism in subtle and gradual ways. put it to sleep, and slit it's throat. you can't kill authoritarianism head on, it lives on adrenaline, you only stoke it back to life, and begins the usual paranoid nationalistic rallying cries to have the public circle the wagons, and by then you've lost the fight

Solution looking for a problem (1)

eli867 (300724) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293825)

Do you have any evidence that people in oppressed countries need help finding proxies. I'm under the impression that word of functional proxies gets around very well via word of mouth.

I HATE SPAM (1)

GodCandy (1132301) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293853)

I am against spamming anyone. However if sending this mass volume of e-mail to china and other countries will slow down the quantity of e-mail coming into my inbox by flooding the connection I am all for it.

If we are doing it to tell them how to get around a firewall that will end up blocking all the proxy sites anyway we are simply waisting our time. I think it could be better spent doing something constructive, like reading slashdot.

by the same argument, spam americans... (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#20293857)

America has almost no independant/unbiased media, which effectively amounts to right wing censorship. Apply the same argument there, and then you would believe that you are justified in spamming americans. This is however utter nonsense. I work with several people from mainland China, and if anything, they are far more politically aware, and rational thinkers than most americans. No government can censor everything in a connected world. Why single out China. The Chinese government is doing more for the living standard of ordinary Chinese people than the US government is doing for ordinary Americans. Both countries are terrible human rights abusers, but at least China doesn't pretend to be a 'democracy'.
Keep you spam to yourself. Spam is a crime that deserved to be punished by a slow and brutal tortured death.
Die spammer. Die, die, die.... die, die, die.

Absolutely, you beat me to it. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#20294507)

But since I can see how you were immediately modded as flamebait and I can predict my post will get the same treatment, I'm going to go annon.
        This whole American obsession with the "Great Firewall" is really absurd and misplaced to anyone who has actually lived in China as I have done for many years. Getting around the blocks is trivial. It's a merely symbolic thing basically saying hey these topics are off limits. Within China you would have to be blind to not know how to find out the latest scoop on the groups that are specifically targeted by the media ban like the Fa Lwun Gong or Tibetan activists. Their messages are, if anything, amplified by the policy which is why it is implemented in such a half ass way. There's no real motivation to make it iron clad because it's obvious to the powers that be that the harder they push the more they strengthen the hand of these groups and encourage new ones to form. The idea is to turn down their volume, not to amplify their strength.
          It's the American nut jobs who think it's some kind of total media ban and that the Chinese are wholly ignorant of the great free world outside their hellish prison island. The image of the Berlin Air Lift seems kinda etched into their memories of how the world is. That was the nineteen forties. It's really not like that anymore.
      In fact, people in China get free-to-air satellite TV with hundreds of channels and even free hardcore porn 24-7. Americans don't even know what free-to-air satellite is. America is the only country in the world that doesn't get free-to-air satellite. The land of the free. Yeah right.
      Furthermore, people in China these days get way cheaper and faster broadband than what you get in the States. Yeah, there are blocks on some web sites, but people can exchange whatever torrents they like. Yeah, that's right, the Chinese use bittorrent to trade files just like Americans and Europeans. If you think the people of China are blind to what's going on in the world, you're just wrong. They probably have better access to news than most Americans.
      Finally, I would like to echo Noam Chomsky by pointing out that the greatest restriction on free expression in the media that was ever created in human history is called advertising. Now that is fucking repression.

I think Bennett Haselton needs a wang pump (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293863)

your wife tells me your having problems in bed ... how about some c14li5?

No, spammers think you want what they are selling, what makes you think the Chinese want what you are peddling?

pfft... (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293865)

"Would that argument still hold if you wanted to advertise proxies to people in China and Iran?"

There is this one small problem that might be a factor, pretty much right from the start. The 'net police in China can read, just like your target population.

You might as well translate it into Chinese and gift wrap the info, for all the good this scheme would do.

Also, the Chinese using the internet are doing pretty well against the authorities - I'd not lose any sleep over them being able to pull their own weight when it comes to communications...thanks just the same.

My opinion (1)

ExE122 (954104) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293893)

First of all, my issue with spam is not that the "costs to society are greater than the benefits". My issue is that it is being sent to me without any consent in my part. The only reason I get half of it is because someone's spamming script realized that exe121@ and exe123@ returned the mail as 'undelivered', but mine worked just fine. Sure I can open the email with it's viral attachments and click the "Unsubscribe" link at the bottom, but I never wanted it in the first place.

As far as the issue of spamming proxy sites... I think the author is misinterpreting "benefit to society". I don't think this is a factor that should be interpreted by the spammer. Just because some pothead thinks spamming me with ads for internet homegrown is benefitting me doesn't mean that I agree. And just because our "uncensored" (/restrain_political_opinions) country thinks that censorship is bad and yadda yadda yadda doesn't mean we can justify it as a benefit to Chinese society. China's governement and a majority of their citizens apparently think censoring information is a benefit to their society. Just because we disagree with them doesn't necessarily give us the justification to circumvent their law just to make a few bucks on an ad-ridden proxy site.

I know this is making me sound like a blind sheep within the herd, so don't get me wrong, I totally disagree with censorship as well. Yet the point I'm trying to make is that I've argued with enough republicans to realize that just because I think something is good/bad doesn't mean everyone else will.

However, if you are actually trying to start some kind of eye-opening social revolution with China, I wish you the best of luck. I just wish you wouldn't fill up my inbox in the process.

--
Capitalism: when it uses the carrot, it's called democracy. When it uses the stick, it's called facism.

Trust (3, Insightful)

bigattichouse (527527) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293909)

They don't know you, and by default cannot trust you. What prevents the government from doing the same to entrap users (even allowing them to proxy, so they can watch their activity). Bad idea, you have to establish networks of trust first. Someone would only use your server if they got the address from someone they know personally. Well, someone who isn't a complete idiot.

Totally unneccesary (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#20293935)

Though it might sound surprising, the majority of Chinese internet users don't feel "oppressed" by the Great Firewall - just inconvenienced and maybe annoyed some times.

Anyone in China who feels he has a need to use proxy servers to access blocked sites knows where to find a good proxy list. Those lists aren't no secrets - they're not even forbidden.

Turnabout is fair play (2, Interesting)

sshore (50665) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293939)

The question can be easily turned around - is it okay to send unsolicited emails to the US, UK, and other similar countries, encouraging users to engage in subversive acts for which they could be fined or imprisoned, because you disagree with a policy of their government? What would you think of a foreigner or foreign agent who did that? What impact might it have? Think of all the people who say "I block all email from China because I receive spam from there." A closely related question is whether politically- or idealogically-motivated spam is okay, if one assumes that commercially-motivated spam is not. My feeling is that unsolicited bulk email is never okay - it raises the noise floor in an already noisy medium.

Flawed reasoning (3, Informative)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293963)

As you might note, most of the comments are negative to the idea, for the simple reason that it's dumb. You stand to become the Jehova's Witnesses of the Internet. But it's not the method, or even the fact that it seems like a reasonable idea that makes it truly flawed. The flaw is in the audience you are trying to target. The people of China have been living with this form of government for quite a while now and despite dissension by a vocal but oppressed minority, there are no signs of change in the way that country works. We are talking a total population of 1.3 billion people, of which a tiny fraction actually have Internet access or even a reasonable idea what the Internet is. In many cases, you'd be preaching to the choir, the techno-savvy Chinese who understand the intricacies of the Net and who yearn for the freedom to use it as anyone else does. But if you're planning to fient some kind of revolution and bring freedom to the Chinese, then you are wasting your time and marking yourself for reprisal.

Revolution, any revolution, must come from within. Enough people must want change to make it reasonable. Chinese society is not built that way, not will it change any time soon.

Enforcing others our own values through violence (3, Insightful)

La Gris (531858) | more than 5 years ago | (#20293981)

What you suggest is enforcing your own cultural vision and values though massive and anoying spam. This is violent and inappropriate.

Having stong enough self awareness and values on what's good, or right or meaningfull regarding our own cultural reference may make you stronger.

Perpetual vigilence is requiered to defend and preserve our liberties.

I don't think this has to be faught outside... Unless you intend to bring in your onw interests in the load. History, past and current is full of this. One group, government, find self good reasons to fight against another group or state because it believe it has self rights, power and interests in doing so.

But, as usual, real society improvments, progress comres from the inside. If chinese think having limited access to the net, and beying jailed by their government is bad enough, they will fight it from the inside. I believe they will do it more appropriately and in conformance to their cultural values and references. Not yours or mine nor anyboty from the outside.

What would you think about the chinese, the russians or the europeans, or the africans... jamming your local network policies, endlessly critisizing your government, down valuing your own abilities to defend yourself or define yourself whats right, whats good...?

This is some cultural violence for the least.

Truly, I hope chinese will find themselves the way they'd like to go. I wouldn't want my own government going theyr ways and would be happy for them if it could or would work there more as it is in my own country. But, I know very little about chineses, and there are probably many reasons I ignore about what makes their government work the way it does. I guess sincerely they are the most aware and able to instituates changes if they feel they need to.

while you're at it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#20294025)

tell all the chinese spammers to use the smtp relay at 207.46.232.182

Why this is a bad idea (1)

FuzzyDaddy (584528) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294083)

The problem is tying your legitimacy to the rest of the spam. There are two possible consequences:

1) People see your message as a scam or a trap, like the rest of the crap they receive, or

2) People see your message as legit, and it raises the reputation of spam to the point where more people will be taken in by scams.

Duh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#20294091)

"Is it OK to send unsolicited e-mail . . . ?"

No.

Typical American Hubris (4, Insightful)

Dusty00 (1106595) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294095)

I can't fathom why Americans haven't gotten over the idea they everyone else always needs our help. Here in America, neither FOX nor CNN provide news, they provide whatever version of the story will generate the best ratings. There are millions of Americans out there who don't realize that other news sources will provide a more accurate picture of what's going on, like Reuters or AP. So why should these news sources not spam the world and show us the light, because we don't want it. Those of us who want their product will go and find it, those who don't will not. Same with what this article is proposing. Those who want information the government is censoring will find a way to get it, those who don't will not.

Spam for illegal? (1)

WPIDalamar (122110) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294115)

So... spam should only be ok for advertising illegal activities? Yeah.. that makes sense.

We don't have a right to break other countries laws because we have moral objection to those laws.

Should we drop the (email) bomb? (1)

peter.stocking (916038) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294173)

Is it better to spam these people to help them with an oppressive circumstance, or just let them go and wait for something else to happen? This is the rational for war. Yeah, war is teh sux, but the alternative is worse. Spamming this one country would benefit for the rest of the world in terms of freedom. Making proxy information ubiquitous would hinder the rational of possession=crime.

The base of the argument is flawed (1)

Anomalous Cowbird (539168) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294187)

Spam is bad because the costs to society are greater than the benefits.

No. Sorry, but the "costs to society" don't enter into it. "Spam is bad because" the costs are borne by the recipient without his consent. This is why spam is fundamentally different from junk mail (with which it is often -- but erroneously -- equated). If someone sends me unsolicited mail, he bears the cost of its postage. I can choose to read it or discard it, but the cost to me is nil. However, if someone sends me unsolicited email, I am paying to receive it, without the choice of whether to do so because I have no knowledge of it until the transaction has already been made.

This is why spammers are evil; they are parasitic thieves, stealing bandwidth and storage from every single one of their addressees.

Well, it's not exactly Soviet, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#20294203)

In Communist China, firewall bypassing proxies spam YOU!

No. (2, Insightful)

doyoulikeworms (1094003) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294227)

Bringing any unnecessary attention to a "bad" thing can lead to many bad things happening to said thing, especially in a place like China. Let the people earn their information. Plenty of people that want to get around the firewall, do, from the Chinese i've spoken to.

Okay if it's free (1)

5pp000 (873881) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294289)

I don't have an ethical problem with spamming, as you describe, to advertise a proxy service as long as it's free. In that case I think the benefit to the world clearly outweighs the cost.

Whether such a frontal assault on the censors in those countries is likely to work, as someone else posted, is another question entirely. I'm not sure it will. But I don't have a problem with the attempt, should you choose to make it.

water torture (1)

tanktop (1145197) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294297)

You're not doing it, you're not planning to, you have no idea how to do it and you absolutely don't know anyone who is doing it. (what are you afraid of exactly?) Then you go on saying that maybe spamming proxy sites would do more good than harm(not afraid anymore?). And conlude by saying that your logic might be flawed. If I were you I'd research my subject a little better before I felt the need to write an article about it. My grandma who has never seen a computer up close can offer more insights into this subject.

Sorry, but (1)

notorious ninja (1137913) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294413)

If you're going around spamming about these proxies, wouldn't the information eventually get to the authorities and tip them off about new proxies to ban? If you're trying to keep a secret, isn't trying to tell the whole world about it a bit of a contradictory?

Spam is spam. Keep spam away! (0)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294435)

Is it OK to send unsolicited e-mail to...

No. Spam is bad.

Why is spam a problem? Because the cost of receiving a message, however minor, is more than the benefits,

I take offence at someone taking advantage of my email address to try to sell me stuff. I'd feel the same if they came up to me in the street. I was offended my spam the instant I received just one. It's nothing to do with price it's all to do with manners.

could you conceive of a kind of spam that would not be a nuisance?

No!

Suppose you sent an e-mail to millions of people offering them free $20 bills. And you actually followed through and sent the money to anybody who claimed the offer.

Still spam. Still don't want.

The "traditional argument" is just to justify the politics of eliminating spam. It's not the real reason it's just a more convincing argument position.

Proxies are a finite resource, censors are less so (1)

peacefinder (469349) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294439)

It'd be a shame if the proxy-advertising spam simply told the censors which sites to add to their national filter's blacklist... which seems like the most obvious result.

Besides, who among the intended proxy users would trust a proxy advertised via spam? Personally, I'd assume a proxy address I'd been spammed with is a sting-proxy set up by the censors as a way of identifying censorship evaders.

Not like it would create much new spam anyway (1)

Floritard (1058660) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294493)

I'm not really hip to the Chinese internet experience, but I'd imagine they get about as much spam as the rest of us, piles and piles. There are a lot of knee-jerk reactions here from those of us frustrated with spam to the point of zero-tolerance, but think about it this way. It isn't as though spam will be going anywhere anytime soon. It's not like there is some great new solution out there and the practice of spam is on its way out. It is something that will probably be with us indefinitely. May even get worse. So who cares if someone starts spamming revolutionary ideas? The overall volume of spam will not increase significantly, and maybe a few poor slobs will be enlightened about the wackiness of their government. No different than handing out pamplets really.

Personally I don't see the point of it, the people need to take care of their own government (that's why the US gov sucks so much, we the lazy), and take it down if necessary. It's up to them. We'd be better off spamming our own leaders to keep us the hell out of these ridiculous countries. You know it's called "writing your congressman." Fat lot of good that does either.

Missing poll option... (3, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294539)

to find that most of them either supported the Chinese government's censorship or didn't care enough to do anything about it.

You've omitted two distinct (and IMO likely) options...

First, people living in a country with oppressive governments may not feel particularly inclined to discussing illegal activity with complete strangers. If a random Iraqi sent me an IM discussing ways to circumvent US border security, as much as I may consider our activities in their country a farce, I would guard my wording very carefully.

And second, your average Chinese person really might not care! In 2003 in the US, something like 3/4ths of the population supported a war on a country having nothing to do with 9/11, as retaliation for 9/11. Never forget that most people have no clue about their own government's atrocities, even against its own population. Ask most Americans about Waco or Ruby Ridge, and you'll get responses about whackjobs holed up over religion or taxes, without even the first thought about whether the (originally minor, in both cases) offenses in question justified the commission of government-sanction massacres.



Addressing the actual topic at hand, though - No, you can't spam people "for their own good". Anyone wanting to find such info on their own will eventually do so. Anyone else, you'll just piss off.

tng comes to mind (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#20294579)

this all seems against the prime directive

Just turn it around a little bit (2, Insightful)

eaolson (153849) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294623)

Just think of this from a slightly different angle:

Is it OK to send unsolicited e-mail to users telling them about the Lord Jesus Christ and their possibility for salvation if they accept Him as their Savior? ... But I think the question involves ethical issues that would not apply to most discussions of spam.

Just because you think your message is valuable to the recipient doesn't mean the recipient thinks so. It doesn't matter if your message is about getting around censorship or about a valuable low-rate mortgage.

Unsolicited bulk email is spam. Period.

Flawed -- Because of the Tragedy of the Commons (2, Informative)

mckyj57 (116386) | more than 5 years ago | (#20294643)

This whole analysis is flawed because spamming by definition is done without permission. Since you don't seek permission, anyone can decide their spam offers a net benefit, even if it does not. Since the cases where it is beneficial are so few -- I point to the VA Research Open Source stock offer as one that was, even though it wasn't really spam -- the net result is a cost and not a benefit.
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