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Section :: Rants and Raves

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Spam Kills The Beaver

The fatal consequences of junk email
Monday 29 March 2010.

The BBC web site has a, to my mind, rather sad article about the end of an era for a Canadian magazine which, for the last 90 years, has been known by the name of one of Canada’s most recognisable and endearing creatures.

The Beaver, alas, is no more. Canada’s venerable history magazine will henceforth be known by the altogether less memorable (and really rather dull) name, “Canada’s History”. And all because spam filters object to its previous name!

I have heard before that some spam filters have problems with the names of English towns, due to certain substrings which they contain (the BBC mentions ‘Scunthorpe’ as being particularly problematic) but I had not previously realised the dangers of names derived from the animal world.

Spam is an ongoing problem for all of us. I personally have Spam filters set on my PC up in Outlook and a couple of Spam-blockers also set up on the server - one of which requires emailers to respond to an automated message before their email will be delivered. I also have various ‘comment spam’ and ‘forum’ spam tools installed here on Bitwise and on the site of my software company. They work pretty well most of the time but they neither completely block spam nor do they always succeed in letting legitimate emails, comments and forum posts get through. So no matter how many spam measures I have in place the final measure still comes down to human intervention - that is, I personally block spammers and remove legitimate email addresses from the automated blacklist.

It seems to me that at present the spammers are winning this game. Anti-spam measures are still in their infancy. The fact that a well known Canadian history magazine has been forced to change its name is just one sad indication of that fact.

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