I found this in the New York Times OP-ED section and found it quite interesting. I started to reply to my spam e-mail today. What do you think: good idea or waste of time? " Fighting the Menace of Unwanted E-Mail By OREN ETZIONI" SEATTLE "A few days ago I created a new e-mail account, and within 24 hours I had received over 25 unsolicited commercial e-mail messages, otherwise known as spam. Even though I'm a professor of computer science, I, like so many others, have failed to protect myself from this daily nuisance. So I welcome the efforts by consumer groups that this month filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission to enact a federal rule that would require senders to identify themselves more clearly and give recipients an effective way to opt out of such mailings. But legal efforts like this will not be enough. More than 20 states have enacted similar laws, but many of them have been challenged as unconstitutional restrictions of free speech or commerce. And the spam continues to flow. Spam is a global phenomenon, and much of it is generated outside the United States. It requires a global response. Why not fight spam with spam? Though spammers hope to lure us with their dubious propositions ("URGENT AND CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS PROPOSAL"), they rely on those of us who don't want to participate to delete their messages quietly and go about our daily business. What would happen if recipients instead replied en masse to each message? Unlike the authors of viruses, who hide in the shadows of the Internet, senders of spam often leave a trail. Faced with hundreds of thousands of responses, the spammer would have to use substantial resources to store the responses, sift through them and identify those registering genuine interest. Alternatively, people could file a complaint with the sender's service provider or overload the spammer's Web site, grinding it to a halt. With current technology, there are few other options. Some service providers allow users to elect to receive e-mail messages only from pre-approved e-mail addresses. But this can cause problems of its own for those who are sending a legitimate message to a recipient they don't know. And software filters pose the same risk of inadvertently blocking desirable e-mail messages, especially since spammers have found ways to make their messages look ordinary. One of the more promising techniques is the use of puzzles that would distinguish people from programs. Such schemes work as follows: Whenever I receive an e-mail message from an unknown sender, my computer automatically sends a message back politely requesting that the sender solve a simple puzzle — like "What's the sum of four and five?" or "What word is embedded in the attached image?" — to demonstrate that the message comes from a person and not an automated sender. The original e-mail message would be transmitted to me only if the sender replies with a solution to the puzzle. This is a promising development, but the process is awkward, potentially insulting to the sender and far from foolproof. If technology is limited, what about an economic approach? The cost of sending e-mail is close to zero. Increasing that cost, for example by requiring senders to pay recipients of a message, would certainly eliminate much of the spam we receive. But it would be unfair to tax all e-mail messages, even legitimate ones, just to discourage spam. These remedies may seem overly ambitious, since getting rid of spam can be done simply by hitting the delete key. But spam is more than just a nuisance. It costs money in lost work time, burdens computer systems and damages online discourse (by deterring people from posting on message boards and doing research on the Web out of fear of leaving an e-mail trail). Let's send a clear message to the spammers: stop spamming or taste your own medicine. " "Oren Etzioni is an associate professor of computer science at the University of Washington."