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Spam The Almighty Buck

How Powerful is the Turn-Off Power of Spam? 114

JayBonci asks: "Here's a question to the Slashdot readerbase. How powerful is the turnoff power of spam? With an upcoming political election in the United States, and a nation not very-well defended against mass unsolicited emailings, what kind of anti-marketing medium is spam? Could a spammer push out millions of: 'V0te for G3orge W. Bush!' or 'J0hn Kerry for Presidnet@', in the hopes to turn off (or on) voters. Spam marketing penetration is terrible (I've heard figures like .001%), but how powerful is its anti-marketing capabilities? An interesting discussion for the Slashdot audience." How often do you make the decision to NOT buy something form a company because you know they engage in spamming activities?
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How Powerful is the Turn-Off Power of Spam?

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  • by aztektum ( 170569 ) on Friday August 06, 2004 @11:15PM (#9906295)
    "V0te for G3orge W. Bush!' or 'J0hn Kerry for Presidnet@'"

    Please /. editors run stories through a spell check. It should be "'Vote for George W. Bush!' or 'John Kerry for Presidnet'."
  • well ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 06, 2004 @11:23PM (#9906342)
    let's see.

    1) I don't buy Viagra.

    2) I don't like to watch pictures of my naked next door neighbour.

    3) I'm quite happy with my university degree the way it is, thanks.

    4) And, I'd rather not apply for another mortgage.

    All in all, spam doesn't turn me off of any companies, because none of the companies that I *would* have bought from (wisely) don't use spam in the first place.
    • I guess, having received some spam about mortgages and stuff like that mostly directed to US citizens, it really makes one sad about the whole SPAM issue : even If I were stupid enough to buy one of those things, I would not be elegible for most of the stuff... what a waste of resources... anyway, nothing new in here. Anyway, living in a small country outside the US, a few times I have received spam from local companies. On a couple of times, I just gave them a call asking for the product mentioned in the
    • Are you sure you don't want another degree?

      "...none of the companies that I *would* have bought from (wisely) don't use spam..."

      So all of the companies you buy from do use spam? Good Lord man!

    • I agree. However, ihave somehow managed to get zero items of spam on one of my mail accounts, without using any spam filter!
    • none of the companies that I *would* have bought from (wisely) don't use spam in the first place.

      Isn't that kind of tortured grammar banned by the Geneva convention?
  • in this election (Score:4, Insightful)

    by a11 ( 716827 ) on Friday August 06, 2004 @11:24PM (#9906353)
    .001% may just be what wins the chair
    • Re:in this election (Score:4, Interesting)

      by HeghmoH ( 13204 ) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @12:49AM (#9906794) Homepage Journal
      Last time around, a change of only about 200 voters would have changed the outcome. (The difference in Florida, IIRC, was 400 votes, and half that number needs to change.) Out of a hundred million voters, that's 0.0002%, so you were (amazingly) overestimating the quantity needed.
      • Last time around, a change of only about 200 voters would have changed the outcome.

        The Supreme Court isn't nearly that large. {wry grin}

        Seriously, the margin of victory in the 2000 election was within the margin of error of the polling system. It works OK when there's a substantial margin between the leading candidates (e.g. Reagan over Mondale, Clinton over Dole), but it simply isn't capable of measuring with the precision that a very close race requires.

      • > Last time around, a change of only about 200 voters would have changed
        > the outcome. (The difference in Florida, IIRC, was 400 votes, and half
        > that number needs to change.) Out of a hundred million voters, that's
        > 0.0002%, so you were (amazingly) overestimating the quantity needed.

        You're being inconsistent here. If you take the number 400 (thus 200) from
        the very small area in Florida where the outcome was very close, then you
        have to calculate the percentate that they constituted based on th
      • That figure doesn't make sense. You have to remember that the national vote totals don't matter at all, thanks to the electoral college. The only thing that matters is winning individual states.

        So, Florida had around 6 million people vote in the last election. If 200 people made the difference, then it was .006%

        Either way, though, it's a damn small number of people. So no matter what your political beliefs, get out and vote this year.

      • It's not 200 out of 100 million voters. It's 200 out of the voters in Florida, whatever number that is.
    • yes but 0.001% will that outweigh the numbers that are pissed off by the spam? That is the question here?

      Since spam marketing only measures success by the numbers that do buy their product - not the numbers who say "no way". And a vote against a candidate will mean more than a non-purchase of viagra.

      Perhaps spam for Nadar (or some other independent) could thow the required spanner in the works.
  • by billmaly ( 212308 ) <> on Friday August 06, 2004 @11:33PM (#9906411)
    As the world becomes more and more aware of what spam really is (crap), it's influence grows less and less. Most people are already decided on an election, and Jesus H Tap Dancing Christ, I hope those who are stupid enough to vote based on "Bush/Kerry sent me spam, so to hell with them!!!" just don't vote.

    So, in conclusion, I think most people who receive email from G30rg3 Bu$h realize that the Republican party likely did not send that message, and mail from J0hn |3rrY is probably equally suspect.
  • (See subject [].) (via frankie []'s journal [])
  • I don't know, but if it can enlarge my penis, it must be fairly arousing!
  • by dacarr ( 562277 ) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @12:28AM (#9906689) Homepage Journal
    The fact is, due to the nature of spam, it's more likely to be used as a smear tactic. Yes, there are historical notes of candidates attempting to spam (and apparently failing miserably), but there is the vague possibility that (say) Ralph Nader could perpetuate spam touting the virtues of Kerry and Bush - and we'd never know it was Nader that did it.

    Now, in all fairness, that's not to say that Nader would do such a thing. Any candidate could be doing that to any random candidates - just treat the names as variables and there you go.

  • I hate you, I hate you SO much.... whatever your asking this question with a plan to do, I hate you and hope you explode in a shower of guts and gut juice.
  • by yawgnol ( 244682 ) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @12:49AM (#9906790)
    What a strange example to use in your premise!

    You think SPAM is going to have an effect on this election? SPAM!? You must be living in a different America my friend, because you can send Men In Black to beat me with rubber hoses while writing "Kerry Killed Your Cat HA HA!" in blood on my wall and I will still drag myself on broken arms to the polls to cast my vote against Bush on election day.

    So no, we're well $#%@ beyond spam making a difference at this point...

    • I usually pass these kind of comments by, but for some reason I'm motivated to post. And this is absolutely non-partisan.

      Do you realize how ignorant those sort of statements make you look? And I would say the same thing to someone making the same statement about Kerry.

      The surest sign of political ignorance and naivete is the "anyone but [blank]" statement. It's so obvious that you have no clue about the issues and their complexities. Every policy -- and everything Bush has done so far -- has positives a

      • I think you're crazy. I figure most votes are one of 2 things: straight ticket and people voting for the lessor of 2 evils. And voting for Kodos rather than Kang probably happens the most as we're not all in the NRA or are Union workers.*

        You say you're "absolutely non-partisan" and then you use "Moore-ites and their ilk". Yup, absolutely non-partisan!

        Bush vs Kerry. Flip side of the same coin -- just how it's been forever. No one likes it, but it's been successful so far.

        *Yes, I know that's a gross
        • You say you're "absolutely non-partisan"

          No, I said my point was non-partisan, and it is. If you think an administration is all negative or all positive, then you are ignorant.

          "Moore-ites and their ilk". Yup, absolutely non-partisan!

          If you have any positive feelings toward Michael Moore and/or his movie, then you are by definition politically ignorant and naive.

          I have my issues with Bush, but Moore is an atrocity to the whole concept of truth and honesty.

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )
        I'll probably get modded down for this, but....

        Are You kidding? Show me a Bush policy that has positives. Honestly. He has driven our economy into the toilet with Reaganomics and overspending on military expenditures. He has pushed our nation into an era of fear and paranoia. He has repressed our basic civil liberties via the "PATRIOT" act. He has caused our country to be hated around the world through his unilateral foreign policies, resulting in whole new groups of future terrorists for our childr

        • I'm not going to go through that point-by-point (In fact, I'm pissed at myself for letting myself post in the first place), but you're a perfect example of what I'm talking about. Your views are incredibly ignorant and one-sided.

          Here's just one thing to ponder. Can you really, really not see the potential benefits of a free Iraq? The potential of having a free country in the middle of that region is unbelievable. If there will ever be a World War 3, it will begin in the middle east, and we may have just c

  • by astrashe ( 7452 ) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @01:02AM (#9906833) Journal
    The whole campaign is so ugly that aggressive spamming wouldn't seem like a really serious annoyance to me. I'm more worried about the lies and character assasination.

  • Forget about it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GCP ( 122438 ) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @01:05AM (#9906843)
    Great, another Michael Moore. "How can I trick people into voting my way?"

    A mailbox full of V1@gra spam doesn't make me hate Pfizer. I think Michael Moore is an obnoxious liar, but his propaganda tactics aren't going to get me to change my mind and vote for Bush in protest.

    I'm so sick of the emotion-laden nonsense from both sides, when there are genuine, thoughtful, interesting, and useful arguments to be made that might allow for creative solutions. Instead, though, people like this questioner seem to feel that deceit is a better approach for dealing with significant issues.

    • Re:Forget about it (Score:3, Interesting)

      by alonsoac ( 180192 ) *
      That may be the case if we are talking about the elections. But I do tend to try not to buy from people that use spam to advertise, whenever I can. I just don't think it's fair with the people who decide they will not advertise with spam because it doesn't fell right.
  • no affect on me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    First of all I don't actual even see but maybe 1-2% of the spam I receive.

    Second, I *do* get tons of lefty spam. I even ended up on one of Michael Moore's mailing lists for some unknown reason.

    And I have friends and even *clients* sending me anti-Bush stuff.

    I hate all the lies and propaganda and crap, especially from that fat fuck (Moore). But I'm still voting for Kerry, almost entirely because I believe Bush made a mistake with the war and should be booted out.

    So I guess if a person has their mind made
  • I hate spam so much that I would take action against spammers of any sort.
    I max out my spam filtering and block a lot of common spam tricks outright.
    I do waste a fair amount of time blocking spam and checking that nothing was accidentally blocked. Although I think it is time well spent because I am blocking it from other people too.
    If I knew how to track down the spam that did get through, then I would be waging war on those people for sure. They piss me off. I hate it.
    If I got spammed to vote Bush, or
  • One words (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jhoffoss ( 73895 ) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @02:01AM (#9907079) Journal

    Well, sort of one word. I never did, nor will I ever, purchase an X-10 camera due to the popups that seemingly started the popup/popunder craze.

    The sad days where I still ran Windows/IE unprotected. Man did I learn how to remove a lot of different spyware/adware.

  • Not at all (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nusratt ( 751548 ) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @03:17AM (#9907306) Journal
    "How often do you make the decision to NOT buy something form a company because you know they engage in spamming activities?"

    It's irrelevant.
    I get 100-300 pieces of spam daily. For all but 5-10 pieces, all I ever see is the sender and the subject line, not the body.
    Even if there's a recognizable brand-name in the subject line, the spam's usually from a sender who's NOT associated with the brand-name (e.g., Viagra).

    In the few cases where the sender+subject plausibly *seems* like it might be from the legitimate brand, I never confirm it by opening the mail, for fear of whatever security vulnerability it might contain.

    So I virtually never know that the brand-owner should be blamed for the spam.
    • Funny, I don't get any viagra spam these days : Vagira, v.i.a.gra, vl4gr4 (whatever the hell that is), but the good people at Pfzier have been leaving me alone.
    • It's not relevant for *you*, but if all Internet users managed to show half the responsibility of you, or even the worst troll on Slashdot, spam and virii probably would not be a problem in the first place.

      Spam works because

      a) people are buying it, and as such, it's profitable


      b) it's not profitable, but people are buying the notion that it is and as such are sending it

      Either way, it means that a lot of people are not well-informed. The same is true for the upcoming elections. I wouldn't let spam or a
  • by dananderson ( 1880 ) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @03:40AM (#9907382) Homepage
    Spam King Bill Jones [] is running for U.S. Senate from California. He doesn't have a chance, but to make sure his spam activities receive broad daylight, please link to my website [] until this November 2nd. Thanks. We now return you to your regular programming. . .
  • by Pegasus ( 13291 ) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @03:44AM (#9907398) Homepage
    For me, tv commercials already have such effect. For 90% of the junk there is, i remember it as NOT to buy.

    If the majority of population would do the same, the world would be a better place :)
    • I have the same resolve - but i do descriminate.

      KIA is a prime example. I will not buy a KIA. is it because they're put-put cars? no. is it because they're made of plastic? no. is it because i have something against KIA? no.

      it's because of all those damned corny commercials on the radio and television.

      When KIA first came on the scene, they advertised dependable cars by showing a fellow with his back seat full of coffee cups. that was cool. i remember thinking, "oh. neat. maybe i'll consider buying one of
    • If the majority of population would do the same, the world would be a better place :)

      Nope. If uncouth advertising stopped working, the same people with the same ad budgets pushing the same products would just switch to whatever was deemed more "couth". Aside from the improved "crap ratio" of ads, everything else would be relatively the same, I think.

      Advertising, whatever you may think of it, works. It's aimed at the largest common denominator and as that group goes, so goes the advertising.

      Not that I wo

  • How often have I changed my buying habits because of spam? Either way? Never. I can't remember ever receiving spam from I company I'd heard of.

    On the other hand, sending out loads of spam with the subject "I always knew I'd be able to vote Kerry online. sasquatch" would probably just target the same bottom feeders who buy viagra online in response to spam.
  • "For me, tv commercials already have such effect. For 90% of the junk there is, i remember it as NOT to buy."

    Fill in the blanks.


    2. "oh no, lost ANOTHER loan to..."

    3. "Itchy feet? ssssssssssssweaty feet? SMELLY FEET? "

    4. "eatin' gooooooooooood, in the neigh-bor-hood!"

    5. "da-da-da-da daaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, I'm lovin' it"

    6. "can they REALLY live with their heads cut off?"
    • It is at moments like this that I am glad to live outside my homeland.

      As to your little quiz ... I have no clue what 1,2,3 or 6 are (But six is very intriguing!) I recognize the slogan for #4, but couldn't tell you who it is for ... Fridays maybe. The only one I can speculate a sponsor for is #5, and I think they're McDonalds.

      • The other responders covered it, except that #3 is Gold Bond Foot Powder.

        My post was a whim, to test the question,
        "If a commercial is sufficiently irritating or offensive, will the public remember the sponsor well enough to reject the brand-name at the *moment* of the purchasing decision?"

        Billy Mays is especially irritating -- always SHOUTING, in a grating voice.

        I'm surprised that being in TJ keeps you from hearing these.
        Don't you still get bombarded by USA broadcasters?

        p.s. -- is Tharek still not eatin
    • 1. oxy clean
      2. ditech
      3. no clue
      4. no clue
      5. mcdonalds
      6. no clue

    • 6. "can they REALLY live with their heads cut off?"

      What the fuck?
  • If political parties send out _real_ unsolicited spam, I would freak out.

    If someone just sent unauthorized krap, then I would just delete it like everything else.
    • OK here's what I can report:

      Like pen(7191) below, I have spam from President George W. Bush. That's what's in the From: header. Actually I don't believe for a second that Dubya himself sent me a campaign flyer, it was sent. as far as I can tell from study of the headers and links, by the Republican Party (of which he is the nominal leader) on his behalf. I have three or four other spams in the same style (they're quite attractive html work, to be honest, and probably expen$ive) pushing a few different i
  • by Anonymous Coward
    in Finland during our last municipal elections. A huge number of people at my university (Helsinki University of Technology) got election spam to vote for a student here. It raised quite a heated discussion in some news groups - especially because the message was in Swedish. The reason is that because it's the second official language Finnish-speakers are forced to learn some in school and many don't like doing it because of a 6 % minority (instead of spending the same amount of time learning a more globall
  • It turned me off (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pen ( 7191 ) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @01:17PM (#9909057)
    The George W. Bush campaign sent me some campaign announcements to an address that I gave only to a particular "marketing" company. The e-mail address was sold to hundreds of spammers (it's where I get about 75% of my spam), including It was the official campaign newsletter (I confirmed the headers), and they did honor my unsubscribe request.

    The e-mail address was only given out once to a single entity.

  • by Omega1045 ( 584264 ) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @01:43PM (#9909185)
    This tactic reminds me of a local election a few years back. The incumbent sent some people around with signs and stickers for the opponent, generally trying to be rude and force the materials on them. The local news even ran a couple of stories about how the contender was trying to force people to put campaign signs in stores, front lawns, etc. The incumbent was doing really well because of this false-negative publicity for his contender. Then a couple of days before the election someone finally figured out what was really going on. The contender one in a land slide victory on the public backlash.
    • Facist regimes pull this stunt on peaceful protesters. They plant antagonists among their ranks to make them look bad, or to give law enforcement an excuse to get brutal on them (after all, the "protesters started it!")
    • This story reminds me of the old joke...
      A Democratic candidate and Republican candidate were discussing their grass roots methods of attracting voters. The Republican candidate said whenever he used a taxi, he would give a twenty dollar tip and say, "Vote Republican." The Democrat said he used a similar method, whenever he used a taxi, he would give a one cent tip and say, "Vote Republican."

      Switch the parties listed above to your heart's content

      "What's exceptional about Europe and Americ
  • How often do you make the decision to NOT buy something form a company because you know they engage in spamming activities?

    As far as I can tell, I haven't received spam from any "real-life" companies I knew before. Therefore, spam had no influence at all on my buying decisions. Of course I won't buy from mass-mailing companies, but then I never intended to up to now.
    Can someone tell me: which well-known companies have engaged in spamming activities? Except for Microsoft, of course, which strangely failed
  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @02:48PM (#9909486) Homepage
    Very. Take a woman out to dinner, offer her spam, and just see how far you get.
  • by ONOIML8 ( 23262 ) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @03:58PM (#9909776) Homepage
    I can tell you that nobody at my place of work will ever bet troubled by election spam. Or any other for that matter.

    As of last week our core group no longer uses email. We agreed, as a group, that email is not productive as compared to a combination of paper memos, phone calls, faxes and runners. The amount of spam that we had to sift through and the money and effort to fight it wasn't worth the trouble.

    Sure, we could have spent some more and tried to filter it better. But our focus is supposed to be on other things (emergency management, law enforcement, etc.) and not fighting spam.

    So I guess the spammers win.

    Or did they? They just lot a small part of their audience. Not that they'll notice. But I wonder how many others will give up on it like we've done.

    • As of last week our core group no longer uses email. We agreed, as a group, that email is not productive as compared to a combination of paper memos, phone calls, faxes and runners. The amount of spam that we had to sift through and the money and effort to fight it wasn't worth the trouble.


      Quit playing Monopoly with Bill. Switch to one of many non-Microsoft products today.

      I love the disparity between your comment and your sig. It is trivial to set up a mail daemon that only runs inside th

      • Your right, it is trivial as long as our group only had to deal with our group. It's the interface to the outside world that gets flooded. We've found that it is quicker and more reliable to have a document printed and faxed to us than to have it emailed because of all the spam.

        Spam isn't a problem that is caused by or limited to Microsoft. Our county, as a whole, has had Novell, Microsoft, Linux and BSD based email systems. All are/were impacted. Other departments that continue to use email are highly
        • And you couldn't setup mail filtering to only accept mail from certain IP addresses? It shouldn't be that hard to keep all email internal, even if that's spread out over offices around the world.
          • Yeah, our IT guys suggested that. But then if I'm going to be working with someone, say another comm tech from a company in Seattle, I have to ask him for the IP information of his system. He wouldn't know so he's got to go to his IT guy, get the information, send it to me, I give it to my IT guy who sets it up. Two months later, when that project is over we would then remove his IP address.

            Then there is the issue of the contract guys. They work from home usually and are on a variety of ISP's. You nev
            • What if the system bounced mail with a "Your network is not currently authorized. Click here and fill out the form", along with a captcha to prevent automated spidering. Most spam uses forged headers so the bounce should never make it back.

              Removing shouldn't be much of an issue (you're blocking to prevent spam relays). If you really want to, auto block after 90 days of non-activity from the IP.
              • Maybe. I suppose it's a good idea. But there's another thing to put hours into getting it to work and then to work right. And it requires time for the people who are trying to send me what I need to fill out yet another form.

                At what point do you say enough is enough?

                For us, we hit that point.

    • Why turn off Email?

      I mean, why not switch to a private, internal Email domain instead?

  • Look at Howard Dean (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Howard Dean ("YEEARGH") ran a marvelously successful SPAM campaign, spamming the daylights out of people. Then was able to play the "oopsie, I didn't do it, someone I hired did it without my consent", but then he CONTINUED to spam. He was attempting to make himself out as the "candidate for geeks", and blew it all with this. We all know how he ended up.

    The best part? I'm not even American and was getting his spam.

  • Well, I get this one regular spam entitled "REAL NEWS", which is some sort of weekly roundup of american events viewed from a far right wing point of view.

    I'm still not sure though if the agenda is indeed political (one way or the other) or rather to shock you enough that you'd end up replying to it, hence validating your email address so that you can get some viagra spam next.

Someday your prints will come. -- Kodak