Internet

Spamming Voters

Political junk ease

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What's worse than spam? Political spam, the dirtiest, vilest form of spam. Campaign '04 is its coming-out party.

One spam-blocking firm, MailFrontier, predicts 1.25 billion unsolicited political e-mails will be sent to prospective voters by November. The group estimates that about 1 percent of all spam is political, usually in the form of surveys. But tracking from Symantec/Brightmail Probe Network found that political spam steadily increased during the election year, suggesting that it could make up 5 percent of all spam going into 2005. Such spam is exempt from the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act, which regulates only "commercial" messages.

Political fund-raising spam is still relatively rare, but it has already been twisted to fraudulent purposes. In July a scammer based in Jaipur, India, spammed an e-mail list looking for Kerry supporters to contribute to the campaign via a Web page copied from Kerry's official site. The stunt forced the Kerry campaign to warn supporters away from any e-mail mentioning johnkerrys.com, the fake site.