Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet

Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet

by Finn Brunton

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Overview

What spam is, how it works, and how it has shaped online communities and the Internet itself.

The vast majority of all email sent every day is spam, a variety of idiosyncratically spelled requests to provide account information, invitations to spend money on dubious products, and pleas to send cash overseas. Most of it is caught by filters before ever reaching an in-box. Where does it come from? As Finn Brunton explains in Spam , it is produced and shaped by many different populations around the world: programmers, con artists, bots and their botmasters, pharmaceutical merchants, marketers, identity thieves, crooked bankers and their victims, cops, lawyers, network security professionals, vigilantes, and hackers. Every time we go online, we participate in the system of spam, with choices, refusals, and purchases the consequences of which we may not understand.

This is a book about what spam is, how it works, and what it means. Brunton provides a cultural history that stretches from pranks on early computer networks to the construction of a global criminal infrastructure. The history of spam, Brunton shows us, is a shadow history of the Internet itself, with spam emerging as the mirror image of the online communities it targets. Brunton traces spam through three epochs: the 1970s to 1995, and the early, noncommercial computer networks that became the Internet; 1995 to 2003, with the dot-com boom, the rise of spam's entrepreneurs, and the first efforts at regulating spam; and 2003 to the present, with the war of algorithms—spam versus anti-spam. Spam shows us how technologies, from email to search engines, are transformed by unintended consequences and adaptations, and how online communities develop and invent governance for themselves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262018876
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 03/29/2013
Series: Infrastructures
Pages: 296
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Finn Brunton is Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University and the author of Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet (MIT Press).

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: The Shadow History of the Internet xiii

Prelude: The Global Spam Machine xiii

The Technological Drama of Spam, Community, and Attention xvi

The Three Epochs of Spam xxii

1 Ready for Next Message: 1971-1994 1

Spam and the Invention of Online Community 1

Galapagos 1

The Supercommunity and the Reactive Public 5

Royalists, Anarchists, Parliamentarians, Technolibertarians 11

The Wizards 17

In the Clean Room: Trust and Protocols 19

Interrupting the Polylogue 29

The Charivari 34

Complex Primitives: The Usenet Community, Spam, and Newbies 34

Shaming and Flaming: Antispam, Vigilantism, and the Charivari 43

For Free Information Via Email 48

The Year September Never Ended: Framing Spam's Advent 48

This Vulnerable Medium: The Green Card Lottery 53

2 Make Money Fast: 1995-2003 63

Introduction: The First Ten Moves 63

The Entrepreneurs 67

Let's Get Brutal: Premier Services and the Infrastructure of Spam 71

Building Antispam 81

The Cancelbot Wars 81

Spam and Its Metaphors 86

The Charivari in Power: Nanae 93

You Know the Situation in Africa: Nigeria and 419 101

The Art of Misdirection 110

Robot-Readability 110

The Coevolution of Search and Spam 113

3 The Victim Cloud: 2003-20 10 125

Filtering: Scientists and Hackers 125

Making Spam Scientific, Part I 125

Making Spam Hackable 133

Poisoning: The Reinvention of Spam 143

Inventing Litspam 143

The New Suckers 152

"New Twist in Affect": Splogging, Content Farms, and Social Spam 155

The Popular Vote 155

The Quantified Audience 161

In Your Own Words: Spamming and Human-Machine Collaborations 166

The Botnets 171

The Marketplace 175

Inside the Library of Babel: The Storm Worm 180

Surveying Storm: Making Spam Scientific, Part II 184

The Overload: Militarizing Spam 187

Criminal Infrastructure 192

Conclusion 199

The Use of Information Technology Infrastructure … 199

… To Exploit Existing Aggregation of Human Attention 201

Notes 205

Bibliography 229

Index 255

What People are Saying About This

Fred Turner

Spam promises to be widely read and widely taught. Finn Brunton's punchy, journalistic prose brings the topic very much to life. The material is new and important, and the writing is simply a joy to read.

Bruce Sterling

Finn Brunton has done mankind a service with this coldly objective analysis of a great human evil. The ghost in the machine is ourselves.

Clay Shirky

Ubiquitous and unloved, spam was one of the first surprising side effects of our improved connectedness. Finn Brunton shows us how spam has coevolved with social media, an arms race where new communal tools and behaviors designed to fight spam lead to new kinds of spam, which leads to still newer tools and behaviors.

Endorsement

Spam promises to be widely read and widely taught. Finn Brunton's punchy, journalistic prose brings the topic very much to life. The material is new and important, and the writing is simply a joy to read.

Fred Turner, Stanford University; author of From Counterculture to Cyberculture

From the Publisher

Ubiquitous and unloved, spam was one of the first surprising side effects of our improved connectedness. Finn Brunton shows us how spam has coevolved with social media, an arms race where new communal tools and behaviors designed to fight spam lead to new kinds of spam, which leads to still newer tools and behaviors.

Clay Shirky , Associate Professor, NYU, and author of Cognitive Surplus and Here Comes Everybody

Finn Brunton has done mankind a service with this coldly objective analysis of a great human evil. The ghost in the machine is ourselves.

Bruce Sterling

Spam promises to be widely read and widely taught. Finn Brunton's punchy, journalistic prose brings the topic very much to life. The material is new and important, and the writing is simply a joy to read.

Fred Turner , Stanford University; author of From Counterculture to Cyberculture

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Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To below
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Are you sure darlin *kisses her deeply*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*nods still a lil doubtful* yeah yeah *kisses u back*