A few years ago, Enrico Zini and I were talking about spam and he introduced me to an idea that I thought made a lot of sense. Basically, he said that the only real solution to spam is education: Until we educate people to not buy the things advertised in unsolicited email, spam will persist because there will be an economic incentive for it to do so.
There are other ways to stop spam being sent but these alternatives seem to boil down to making the spammers’ medium either prohibitively expensive or regulated — neither of which are solutions I’m comfortable with with a number of reasons.
Enrico’s idea broke down for me today when I received religious "spam." It was a email from someone trying to convert me to Christianity.
As one of my friends put it, it’s surprising that unsolicited religious mail is not more common and I don’t doubt that it will become more so in the future. The problem with the education model for combating spam and these religious mass-marketing campaigns is that there is no reaction that we can educate people not to have that will eliminate the messages. There is no link to click and no phone number to call in the email. Religious spammers have a message and the chance that you might get it and become saved eternally — no matter how improbable — is enough to justify their effort.
At this point, religious spammers are using the tools of the commercially-motivated spam industry so they are connected. However, I can’t help but see this is a profoundly more problematic type of spam creation.