Friday, October 12, 2007

Spam Assassin

In Russia a notorious spammer was assassinated

Is this a crime? Should it be? Consider the contrast:
  1. Killing one person. How many people suffer and how much? The victim of course. Maybe his family and friends. But not that many people. So this is High Impact on a Few People.
  2. Spamming 100,000,000 people. How many people suffer and how much? Far more than 100,000,000 suffer. Why so many? The following suffer:
    1. Software is more expensive because you need to put in spamassassin's.
    2. People who send legit email that is blocked. This has caused confusion not worthy of a bad sitcom.
    3. The people who fall for these spam-scams.
    4. The Nigerian billionaires who really do want to give me $5,800,000 dollars. Its hard to tell the real ones from the fake ones.
So, how to measure the cost-benefit of killing this spammer?

{ s1, s2, ..., sn } is the people that suffer by the spammers death. Person si suffers ai.

{ t1, t2, ..., tN } is the people that suffer by the spammers action. Person ti suffers bi.

Its safe to assume that n is MUCH LESS THAN N and that bi is MUCH LESS THAN ai. If

a1 + a2 + a3 + ... + an < b1 + b2 + b3 + ... + bN

then the spam assassin should not be charged with a crime.

The more serious question here is how to deal with spammers who transcend boundaries and seem outside of the law. The Russians may be onto a solution...


  1. Just wanted to note that the original story is probably a hoax. The alleged spammer did not exist.
    The following is a link to the blog discrediting the original story.

  2. This is probably a hoax, but the story of another spammer is not:

  3. What do the terms in the inequality stand for? Each term is a product of a person and his suffering?

  4. You seem to have missed the whole point of civilized society. If you allow people to judge for themselves who should die, then everyone suffers. For instance, I have to worry whether my students will assassinate me, having decided that my teachings do more harm than good. I'm not sure I trust them to make this decision. I really prefer to be spammed than live in a world where I'm forced to.

  5. Unfortunately, looks like a hoax indeed.

    But, just in case Russians have started killing spammers, then there is at leas one reason for me to start respecting them :)

  6. Is there some justification that a person should be killed when he or she does more harm than good?

  7. Do you think that the hoax was inspired by the use of the SpamAssassin name for a spam blocker?

    Separately, even if you added a threshold for the difference of these values, why would a linear objective function be appropriate?

  8. I think your post is quite ridiculous unless you really believe in it in which case you have quite a weird set of moral ethics. It is clear that you are better equipped to deal with theory questions/issues than moral ones and you should stick to them.

  9. You see: your taste of humour does not match the one of some of your readers. You should have posted this in Russian :)

    --From Russia, ...

  10. Hmm glad your in mathematics and not legislatoin. Your logic seems to indicat that it would be completely okay to kill most homeless people in the world. I'm sure we could extend this further to killing a very large percentage of the population.

  11. I would say that the contribution homeless people make is at least non-negative, whereas the personal cost to them of being killed is very high. So, as I understand it, the above argument does *not* support killing homeless people.

  12. Moral has nothing to do with this post, the post is not justifying killing anybody, it just says, which I completely agree with, that what has (?) happened has positive "total impact".

    As of homeless people, they are not intruding my privacy. They have rights to exist, and we, if we would have being living in moral societies, would have kept to ourselves the right not to feed them. This is what my understanding of moral is.

  13. This is what my understanding of moral is.

    Fortunately for the world's homeless, many people disagree.

  14. You forgot: The loss for the spammer is infinite.