Published in December 1996 issue of Prospect Magazine
Since our web site went live, there has been a marked increase in the amount of junk e-mail we have been receiving. Tut tut! The barbarians are everywhere. The sending of unsolicited e-mail is a breach of “nettiquette,” an offence magnified a thousand times if the reason for the message is commercial. America Online recently reckoned that 1.5m of these tainted texts had been sent on their system alone, so they have now come up with some impressive filtering software to enable their members to stop it, if they want to.
The rules of nettiquette emerged in the early days of the net when it was still essentially a text only system, when the use of “smileys,” or “emoticons,” were the nearest anyone ever got to graphics. Persistent “spamming” (sending unsolicited e-mail) can get you “flamed,” that is to say everyone gangs up and inundates you with abusive e-mails to crash your system or at least cause you considerable inconvenience. The use of capital letters is also frowned upon as this is the cyber equivalent of shouting. All very charming, and these rules doubtless worked well when the internet was still largely the preserve of genteel academics. Now it’s full of go-getter estate agents, car dealers and other “Have I got a deal for you!” merchants, just like our own dear Conservative party really. The world moves on. Maybe America Online’s solution is the only way.