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DIANE MAKAR MURPHY My reply to Internet smut spam: Can it



Published: Thu, February 21, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.


Sluttygirl@-aol.com wrote me again. Subject line, "Do you remember me?" There's another e-mail from CallMeA--(descriptor deleted)@aol.com. Subject line, "How are you doing?"
I keep a Yahoo e-mail address for this very reason -- as a repository for spam (no offense to the food product Spam, which, unlike these e-mails and certainly by comparison, is of a very high quality, indeed). Spamming, for the uninitiated, is the act of sending out thousands of e-mails at a crack to people who didn't ask for them.
Every time you order something online, or sign up for a new user name and password, you risk being added to a spam list. That's why I use my secondary Yahoo e-mail address. I get things for credit cards, travel services, Web site builders, software developers, Reader's Digest, and something that looks like this @@#%$@@#%. I don't know who it comes from because I'm afraid to open it. (I hope it's not from cousin Albert in Dubuque.)
The beginning: How I became a victim of smut-glut, I'll never know. For a while, I replied to the e-mails (without opening them -- honest), writing in a very businesslike way, "Please remove me from your mailing list. I am not now, and never have been, nor will I ever be, interested in pornography."
This worked for a while, but then my transmissions came back marked "undeliverable." I quickly realized it was a numbers game. Somewhere out there, there are people interested in Sluttygirl and with free e-mail, what the heck, spam like crazy.
If only one in 5,000 people drags out a credit card and clicks into Sluttygirl's Web-bedroom, and you've porn-spammed 300,000 people, you've made -- well, I don't know what you've made.
I should admit it's not that big a deal to delete these e-mails -- just a simple click. The subject lines are pretty obvious -- "Want a good time tonight?" "Call me for love?" "What's your sign?"
And the e-mail addresses aren't exactly cryptic either -- partygirl, XXX, deep throat, hotlady, hornylady, fatlady, biglady, and Iain'tnolady. (I hate to sound superior, but do you notice, those all seem to cater to MEN?!?!) I feel sorry for anyone named Ann and Carol, two other frequent smut-glut names.
Though I've never visited a porn site, even in the line of columnist duty (which I figure would be a great excuse if I were into that sort of thing), I harbor a secret fear that someday, when I run for president or something, someone will find my e-mail trash in cyberspace and publicize that I got more than 300 letters from "Sexythang."
Then this former male stripper with a tattoo that says, "You've Got Mail," will appear on "Sally" and say we had an affair for 12 years, and I'm the mother of his three children.
Daughter: The thing that really gets me, though, is my daughter gets these things on her e-mail. Hannah is in no way attracted to correspondences with subject lines like "hot times for you," but I would really prefer she not even get them!
As a journalist, I'm supposed to fall heavily onto the First Amendment freedoms side of this issue, but as a parent, I wonder at the wisdom of letting 14-year-olds be pestered with lascivious e-mails generated by ... whom? I'm picturing a sleazy rat who uses bottoms for a bottom line. (Don't credit card companies discriminate AT ALL when giving merchants accounts? Nah!)
We're looking at limiting telemarketers, but when are we going to look more closely at e-mail? I have yet to get a phone call from "hotmama," but I've already gotten several of her e-mails.
I hate to think of the Internet as an all-or-nothing proposition. The same goes for e-mail. Can't we stop spamming? Can't I at least end my sordid little relationship with Sluttygirl and all her sisters?
murphy@vindy.com


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