Filtering Spam: Research Agendas

Notes from discussion seminar at Oxford Internet Institute, June 18, 2003

Notes by Benjamin Edelman


I.               Scale of the problem

A. Academic, w/o commercial interests

B. Economics of spam

C.           Responses to spam

D.           Effect on companies’ cost of running servers

1.   Brownouts?  Add’l hardware needed?

E. Existing OII survey data

II.             Regulatory practices

A. Will problem solve itself?

B. Legal initiatives

1.   Self-labeling requirement (“ADV:”)

2.   Existing law (fair trade, consumer protection)

3.   Enforcement of ISPs’ Terms of Service

4.   See

C.           Modification to email system itself?  Impose cost to sending mail.

D.           Companies becoming more conservative, blocking more inbound mail?  White lists rather than block lists?

III.            Definitions

A. What is solicited versus what is not

B. Whether filters match users’ definitions

C.           Existing legislative efforts at definition, but hard to defeat strong marketing lobby in US.

IV.         Related disciplines, undercurrents, and other ideas

A. Ethics

B. Who are the spammers?  Personal profiles?  How many spammers are there?  Need empirical answers.

C.           Historical context: Unsolicited telegraphs, unsolicited phone calls, unsolicited faxes.  What is different about Internet?  1) Jurisdiction, 2) Cost.

1.   Comparison with state-based do-not-call list.

D.           Is it realistic or helpful to expect a lack of spam in email?  Much advertising seen when walking down the street.

V.           Big-picture thinking

A. Self-regulation backed up by law