Spam is the quintessential problem in the age of the internet. Unwanted electronic mail is indiscriminate and insistent—whether it’s unsolicited advice from a mystic halfway around the world, grammatically incorrect notifications of a winning ticket in a lottery you’ve never joined, or the low, low, low prices for breakthrough medicine guaranteed to enlarge body parts you don’t have. When the brilliant people behind Yahoo!, Hotmail, Gmail, and other mail servers introduced the bulk mail folder—a nifty marvel intended to filter spam from regular email—the inconvenience spam causes was supposed to decrease. In theory, at least.
Reality tells us that spammers have only grown more aggressive in recent times, sending advertisements and notifications to millions of addresses generated by combining arbitrary words, numbers, and letters. As anyone who, like me, improvidently chose to append letters and underscores in their email addresses would know, spam is offensive, intrusive, and misleading. I spend at least ten minutes each day deleting the various “urgent” messages, congratulatory notes, and limited discounts I receive from single-initialed senders before I can even move on to reading the rest of my mail. I spend at least as much time checking my bulk folder for the genuine messages filtered from my inbox by mistake, as when I’m expecting a message from a friend who goes by crazysexycoolhottie18 in cyberspace. I am often misled into opening messages from what appear to be reputable companies, only to find a blank message or worse, sexually explicit material. I take the time to erase spam from both my inbox and bulk mail folders because I’ve found that not doing so keeps me from up- and downloading files to and from the Internet as quickly as I would want.
There is nothing wrong with legitimate businesses advertising through the internet. However, as with all things, potential customers should be given a real choice between patronizing the service or product offered or refusing the same altogether. As it is, email users have no means to effectively communicate their all too emphatic refusal to receive spam to those who doggedly send them out. Moreover, any advertisement sent through email should be free from any explicit photographs, given the indiscriminate reach of spam and the number of minors who subscribe to email accounts. Indeed, the marked inability of an email user to rid his inbox of the deluge of unwanted mail only compounds the problem by ultimately preventing a person from exercising his right to refuse unwanted information.
There is a need for the law to respond to this problem by formulating the necessary statutes against spam, given the serious inconvenience it poses to electronic communications and commerce. Some European countries as well as Malaysia have anti-spam legislation, and there is no reason why the Philippines cannot do the same, considering the emerging role of the Internet in Philippine society.