Saturday, October 13, 2007

Can Spam

Consumer wise the following thread I placed on a forum, but because it deals with a problem that computer users have to address on a day to day basis, I decided to place it on my blog.  There have been many to say that if you block spam from one direction, then you are opening it in another.  This may be true, but if harsh penalties were in place instead of the slap on the wrist then chances are many will take heed, and not want the raft of the law down upon them. The laws we have in place right now don't even address all of the problems we have to address everyday when it comes to email spam.  What most don't realize is that even though your home computer is online, and you are having a good time online, or taking care of that trip you plan to take, or even brushing up on the news... You share the Internet with Business too.  What vulnerabilities you face every day, Business faces too.  So I decided to post this.  It does not mean it is the answer to the problem.  It just might instead open your eyes up to what EVERYONE faces everyday online.  The major fact is that business websites including my own about 90% of the emails received is spam.  This means that your ISP, your bank online, or even the store you visit online fights spam at a very large scale every day of the week too.  Many businesses have disabled email through their company online website.  I, myself put in place a new system to handle email, and did away with my own email accounts at my domain website in order to stop the spam.  But it did not stop entirely, I still get about twenty each day.  
On to my post...
While affiliates can help to sell products, they are pretty simple to sign up for, and sell the products that you like selling.  I have tested some of the websites that you can sign up to be a affiliate. There is not much screening done at all. Some do not screen at all. Just sign up, and get the code.
I have asked in the past as to why they permit a affiliate to advertise without showing a valid ID that can be reported to the "RIGHT" website that is paying them? For those whom do not know... When you get a spam email it includes a link, and for the most part the portion of it is the only part there is that shows who is fixing to get paid.  The problem with this is... For the most part the link goes to a website on the product, but it does not mean "That" website is the one paying them. Certain company's allow them to set up the webpages as they see fit. They only ask that certain elements be present on the page. They can use free hosting company's, email, their own paid website, forums, etc. So I am just curious to the fact if they "had" to use a ID that also showed whom was paying them, with maybe a built in address in the ID, or someway to identify who was paying them would this help to cut down on the abuse of the affiliate programs out there? This could also cut down on the amount of Spam. It would cut down on the amount of Spam because the ID would link to the payer, and the spammer would not be able to change the ID in any way in order to hide behind the link. Because the ID they use has to be valid, and because part of their ID is also the information you need incase of abuse. They don't get paid, unless they use that FULL ID. Then the ones getting the Spam would only have to grab that ID check the link in the ID or what ever and go to that website, and file a report on the spammer. The second part of this that needs to be done is the fact that the affiliate paying websites, a lot of them do not have a link to report bad affiliates at. So this would have to be implemented also.  Or maybe the ones paying affiliates would have to announce to maybe the FTC, or some other enity whom among their affiliates made the most money for that quarter? Or that year? Or even that month?  The idea here is to get the ones paying the affiliates to show a little responsibility here.  
Next and this is a maybe, is the ID would be enforced, and no USA affiliates will be allowed to inter into this type of business unless the company hiring them follows the rules.  make it illegal for any affiliate in the USA to go to a foreign country that does not use the same rules, and make the penalty harsh if they do.  Extra fines, that maybe are put into a kettle to help cover the cost of the program maybe?

Plus! The ones allowing the spammer to Spam could be held more accountable, because in the past this has been the number one reason why these websites claim they can't catch them spamming, or do anything about it. or maybe they do know, but choose to do nothing about it.  While you are at it to keep them from claiming 1st 2nd and 3rd party affiliation be sure you cover all the bases and that includes any one on something like a tier.  This way no one can say that person is 2nd tier therfore the rules don't emply.

Next we could have a list of websites that have a bad reputation, and possibly block their emails, and website popups out right server side because we have a better way of knowing whom is doing the spamming from where.  Don't follow USA rules on hiring USA affiliates, and USA affiliates will be ban from participating in your affiliate program.  This also means that banks, and places like paypal would not be able to accept money from a foreign country that is banned.  Cover all bases.
Now last of all you outlaw spam bots, and you place on these individuals very very hefty fines, and imprisonment  for many years, they lose their house because their business has destroyed business, or is hurting business.  etc.  Don't play games with them hurt them where it counts.  After all they are hurting everyone online with their botnets, and their zombies.  What they are doing is deplorable.  Show them no mercy. 
Now you educate the public on how to tell if the affiliate is using a valid ID, and they are following the rules.  It will be those websites that are deemed Spam friendly, and the public will know they can visit those websites.  They can ignore all other spam they receive.
Treat some of them like drug pushers.  because that is what they are selling drugs not approved in the USA, and is being sold by a  foreign country and not sold by USA standards.  Many individuals are scammed, or lose their kidneys, etc because of drugs sold by spammers are illegal in the USA because of their content, or lack of.  get them for fraud too while you are at it.
Another thing to consider is to have someone create a software that works like a anti-virus software, but works on servers or host websites that scans for Spam pages not in compliance.  If the content is nothing but advertising, it should say so in the header of the page.  The ones not labeled as advertisements will be removed, and you would almost have to include the same ID as above. Or include the identifying information of the one supplying the product.  This here could be one of the main keys to the whole system working properly.  A good bonus to this is this could possibly do away with domains that are nothing but advertisments.  A website that is page after page of nothing but ads could be found easier, and if possibe (Big IF) maybe a means to warn the public they are fixing to visit a advertising domain.  Or some sort of warning.  Like I said a (Big If).
There are pitfalls to this, the major one is: What is considered a advertisement?  Would you look for key words?  Or look for key sentences?  Does the admission of a certain type word make the whole page a advertisement?  Do you remove content simply because the website is getting web hits that are coming from a certain ISP? Do you remover the content simply because a ISP asked you too?  I believe you would have to study how anti-spam software works.  You would also have to have a team that could inspect WebPages that you are getting complaints from.   This would get Hosting companies more envolved with the people they are hosting content for.  Even though some may not like this, in the end I believe it's a good idea.  In the past and even now days very few Web Host know exactly whom they are giving space too on the Internet, and what exactly they are doing with that web space.  So this idea makes everyone more accountable for content.

The fact is that up till now they claim a majority of spammers are in the US. If this is true, then possibly a better system for affiliates to follow may be in order.  The USA needs rules for affiliates to follow in order to protect consumers, and business from spam.  No one has of yet come up with anything that works, and this includes the Can Spam Act
Now I know what you are thinking...  that there is no way the USA would ever put this type of system in place, it is way harsh, and may even be too harsh.  Yes it could be far fetched, the idea is to get you to think as a consumer, but also to think ahead when you get that that new very large hard drive.  Do you want twice or three times of spam coming to your inbox? The fact is Spam is taking over the Internet.  The Can Spam Act still allows spammers to spam.  They found a way around the laws, and went back to work spamming in less than a few weeks time.   It is the one lucrative business that someone can hide behind, and never be seen.   Put them in the public eye along with the one that is paying them, and hopefully we will see a differance.  Opting out does not work, placing (spam) in the subject line does not work, and neither does the fines and jail time they have put in place work.  The FTC has stated: "Based on the FTC's experience in more than 60 cases that targeted spam, the report notes that there are three hurdles for the FTC and other law enforcers in anti-spam investigations: identifying, and locating the spammer; developing sufficient evidence to prove the spammer is legally responsible for sending the spam." Even my ideas are ideas, but it does accomplish this.   We need, and this includes everyone to be able to take control of our inboxes.  This is why I posted this. I just have not thought of a better way than this so far.  So if you know of anything better then comment on my blog.