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26th May 1997
Junk mail, what's the solution?
As reported in this story, another incident of unsolicited commercial email (UCE) has occurred from a source which should have known better.

In this case, as in the TeleGuide UCE mailing a couple of months ago, it would appear that the mailing list used was pulled from the details held by the NZ DNS. The most obvious source of this information is the list of registered names available on this Web page. (Perhaps it might be a good idea if a warning were attached to that page, pointing out the inadvisibility of using its contents to create a mailing list for the purposes of UCE).

But where else do these mis-marketers get their lists from?

Probably the most common source are the many usenet newsgroups. A message posted to such a newsgroup is normally distributed to all corners of the earth and it's a very trivial matter to pluck the addresses out of these messages and compile a list.

Next most common source is the humble "mailto" link found on so many Web pages. It doesn't take a half-competent programmer very long to knock up a system that will pluck the email addresses out of a huge number of Web pages in a very short period of time - and you can even use a search-engine to pre-qualify suitable pages. Check this out for an example of what I mean. AltaVista indicates that it knows of some 20 million Web pages containing email addresses.

An unsettling shift
Used to be that UCE just contained solicitations from multi-level marketers (MLMs) or stupid chain letters, often titled "Fast Ca$h" or something similar.

Unfortunately things are changing and in the past month or so, a growing number of open solicitations to visit "adult" sites have started appearing in people's mailboxes. Now this isn't a problem for most sensible adults, but what happens when the recipient is a 9 year old whose email address has been plucked from their homepage or from an innocent usenet posting to alt.kids-talk, alt.support.diabetes.kids or similar newsgroups?

I'm not a fan of censorship on the Net but I am deeply concerned that some of the unscrupulous operators of "adult" sites are using UCE to fire out totally untargeted solicitations to almost anyone with an email address. If the Internal Affairs Department are going to spend time, money and resources and work with the enforcement authorities in other countries with a view to controlling offensive material on the Net then I suggest that they pay very close attention to UCE and the way it's now being used.

Mind that child!
laws are needed
Cooperation is mandatory
Unfortunately, due to the borderless nature of the Net, no country-specific laws will be of any real value in the fight against UCE. There's a lot of effort going into the formulation of some type of anti-spam/UCE laws in the USA but ultimately one country's actions alone will be pretty futile, the offenders will simply move their virtual-locations to another jurisdiction.

To be truly effective, anti-UCE/Spam legislation will have to take the form of an internationally agreed treaty or set of laws which is enforceable across international borders.

Unfortunately, if our previous track-record with regards to the handling of unsolicited commercial faxes is anything to go by, I don't see New Zealand's legislators paying any attention to the matter of UCE any time soon - although maybe the recent arrival of a pornography component may get the ball rolling.

Did you know...
After another DNS trolling session I've discovered the following:
  • amcup2000.co.nz and americascup2000.co.nz have been registered by Telecom Internet Services
  • ac2000.co.nz, americas-cup.co.nz and americascup.co.nz all point to the same site and appear to be owned by Dave Blyth.
  • americascup.com is still available but americas-cup.com has already been allocated to General Motors in the USA.
  • INL (Independent Newspapers Ltd) have registered the domain dailynews.co.nz and Wilson and Horton (The Herald) have registered dailypost.co.nz

It seems that Cadbury NZ have decided that after wrangling the cadbury.co.nz domain name off of The Domain Name company in the courts, maybe they'd better put it to some use. Likewise Sanyo.

domain digging
News, news, news
Why is that?
For a long time now, The Press has been given the title of NZ's best online version of a printed newspaper. Indeed it has a lot of good stuff but a new challenger is about to launch and based on their beta version, the Otago Daily Times looks as if it may just take that crown.

This leaves us wondering... why is it that the south has such a dominance in this area? Where is the NZ Herald? Where is The Dominion?

One thing's for sure, NZ Web users are certainly spoilt for choice when it comes to getting news from the Net with possibly more local news sites per head of population than any most other countries.

I Can't Believe It's True!
In recent months we've seen copyright owners cracking down on Star Trek sites, and even some pop-group fan sites, denying the operators of such sites the right to use images and sound clips.

But it gets worse - now you're going to get your bottom paddled if you use the name of a cartoon character...

I hate those meeces...

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