David E. Sorkin, Technical and Legal Approaches to Unsolicited Electronic Mail, 35 U.S.F. L. Rev. 325 (2001).
Unsolicited electronic mail, also called "spam," is both a nuisance to Internet users and a threat to network security. Spam imposes substantial costs on Internet users and providers, who have undertaken a variety of actions in response--many of which have been counterproductive. Informal responses such as social pressure and industry self-regulation have been almost entirely ineffectual in battling spam. Technical responses have fared somewhat better, but often at a high cost. Efforts to filter or block spam, for example, frequently prevent legitimate messages from getting through. Other technical responses have done little to stem the tide of spam, and in some instances have led to expensive legal disputes.
Lawsuits have been somewhat successful in addressing the most extreme instances of spamming, and a number of jurisdictions have enacted specific laws in an attempt to regulate spam. But legal approaches in general seem to have been no more successful than technical responses to the spam problem, and the primary result to date is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding spam. Ultimately, a consensus approach that coordinates legal and technical responses is likely to provide the only effective solution.