Spam (unsolicited commercial e-mail) is a sickness on the internet. It clogs newsgroups, chokes mailers, and causes the user time and money to download and delete mail that she or he does not want and will not read. Spamers make you pay to receive their junk mail! There exists "bulk e-mail" spammers who sell their victims' internet address to other spammers, thus perpetuating the problem. And the problem is vast: spammers do not just provide a "mild inconvenience" to the user. They mail thousands of messages at a time, forcing their victims to pay the cost of receiving their advertisement--- shifting the cost from the spammer to their victims. The fact that the vast majority of their victims never read the spam received does not bother the spammers: they assault users by the tens of thousands, in the belief that at least a tiny fraction of their victims will read the spam and perhaps buy their "products."
Those "products" are usually pornography, mult-level marketing scams, or pyramid schemes. Extremely few reputable marketeers use spam to sell their products.
Over the past four years and up to now (July, 1999CE) I have sent over 600 complaints about spam to the ISPs that inject it into usenet and POP3. Of those 600+ complaints, about 35 accounts have been terminated due to my complaints. The vast majority of complaints are utterly ignored.
There are some things one can do to protect oneself from spam.
1) Never give out your e-mail address to strangers. Only give your address to friends, and tell them to never share it with others.
2) Tell your Internet Service Provider to never publish your e-mail address. Often one's ISP will put up a default WWW site for their new customers, which shows the customer's name and e-mail address, with some kind of "Under Construction" banner on the page.
3) If you post in Newsgroups, add superfluous letters to your "reply-to" and "from" address. There is software that spammers use that read newsgroups and extract users' e-mail addresses from the articles there. The problem is so bad, a great many users now either use anonymous remailers or change their e-mail address. For example, if one's real e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org you may wish to change it in your newsreader software to something like email@example.com and then add somewhere at the end of each article you post the sentence "Remove '.no.spam' from the address to reply."
4) Use a CGI utility such as Web Poison on your WWW
pages when you use the "mailto:" command. There
are assholes (i.e., greedy businesses) who have software that
crawls through cyberspace looking for the e-mail addresses
assigned to the "mailto:" links on web pages.
defeats that abuse. It was written by Ronald F. Guilmette.
use the program on my WWW pages at holysmoke.org and it works
well. You may need to FTP the 'c' files to your shell account
and complile them on your server yourself, or try one of the
".cgi" files to see if they run in your cgi directory.
Here is how I added it to my WWW pages:
<img width=1 height=1 src="images/poison.gif" align=top border=0 hspace=0 vspace=0></a>
That is placed at the top of my WWW pages, BEFORE any "mailto:" links. The spammer's programs that harvest e-mail addresses will follow that link an infinate number of times, thus making them harvest an infinate number of bogus e-mail addresses.