SPAM….Much spam talk today….

Apparently there is a widespread spam attack on blog comment threads. The spammers use robots to leave links to some unusually nasty porn sites on dozens of comment threads at a time, and sign the comments “Lolita” or “Preteen.”
According to TalkLeft, which, like me, is hosted by Hosting Matters, they are on top of the situation and have banned the IP addresses that have been sending the spam. In addition, I’ve also personally banned the IP addresses on my site. I mention this mostly because it’s possible that a legitimate user could get banned if their IP address happens to fall into the same range as the spammer. If this happens to you, I apologize, but I’m afraid this is a ban that’s going to have to stay in place.

And as long as we’re on the subject of spam, Mark Kleiman suggests today that spammers who use return addresses like “” or somesuch, and therefore force you to look at the message in case it’s something real, are guilty of defrauding us of our time. Perhaps federal law ought to be changed to make that a crime?

Fine by me, and to help him make his point I’m going to quibble with something else he said:

Spam is annoying. But a spam filter will cut down on the volume substantially, and deleting what gets through the filter is usually not an outrageous burden….Maybe there needs to be a legally enforceable do-not-spam list, or some non-legal approach managed by the consumers’ ISPs (e.g., a tiny per-message charge) to discourage bulk spamming, but it’s a reasonably manageable problem most of the time.

Au contraire. My poor mother, who wants nothing more from her computer than to send and receive an occasional email to her friends, has gotten to the point where her email account is nearly useless. She’s on a dial-up link and she gets about 200 spams a day, so if she misses a couple of days and then checks for email, she has to wait for 600 messages to download and then sort through them to find the one or two genuine ones. (I was there one day when she came home from vacation and it took over an hour to get rid of a week’s worth of spam.) At some point this makes it impossible in practice to use email, and since she’s charged for connect time it also costs her real money.

So while spam might be tolerable for those of us on broadband connections hosted by ISPs who have at least some minimal spam filters in place, for many others it makes their email practically unusable. My mother’s ISP, Concentric, confirms that spam is a real problem (thanks, guys!) and says that they’re “working on a plan.” Great.

So in the end, the only solution is a new email address, which mom will be getting next week when Time Warner installs a shiny new cable modem. That should take care of the problem.

For a while.