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An American import?

National | Internet spam creates an unexpected side effect: It gives the United States a bad name.

Issue: "Tyranny of the minority," June 7, 2003

Internet spam creates an unexpected side effect: It gives the United States a bad name. The messages for get-rich-quick schemes, quack medicines, and sexual sleaze feed negative attitudes about American capitalism. They give the impression of a nation of con artists seeking easy prey.

Spammers may or may not be based in the United States; yet scams almost always are written in English and target U.S. customers. (That spammers typically price their wares in dollars is a dead giveaway.) Automated software that trolls for e-mail addresses doesn't care where an addressee lives-thus creating spam problems as far away as Japan and South Africa.

Junk e-mail is so prevalent on U.S. shores that there are calls on Capitol Hill for regulation. In the United States, the anti-spam software company Brightmail claims that by December, half of all e-mail will be spam. It costs $10 billion each year in lost domestic productivity.

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Since spam is an international problem, legal solutions are difficult to craft. A company that breaks the law in one country can simply use a server in another country and keep sending messages.

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