DON'T SPEW A Set of Guidelines for Mass Unsolicited Mailings and Postings (spam*)
RFC 2635

Document Type RFC - Informational (June 1999; No errata)
Also known as FYI 35
Last updated 2013-03-02
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Network Working Group                                    S. Hambridge
Request for Comments: 2635                                      INTEL
FYI: 35                                                      A. Lunde
Category: Informational                       Northwestern University
                                                            June 1999

                               DON'T SPEW
                A Set of Guidelines for Mass Unsolicited
                     Mailings and Postings (spam*)

Status of this Memo

   This memo provides information for the Internet community.  It does
   not specify an Internet standard of any kind.  Distribution of this
   memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (1999).  All Rights Reserved.


   This document explains why mass unsolicited electronic mail messages
   are harmful in the Internetworking community.  It gives a set of
   guidelines for dealing with unsolicited mail for users, for system
   administrators, news administrators, and mailing list managers.  It
   also makes suggestions Internet Service Providers might follow.

1.  Introduction

   The Internet's origins in the Research and Education communities
   played an important role in the foundation and formation of Internet
   culture.  This culture defined rules for network etiquette
   (netiquette) and communication based on the Internet's being
   relatively off-limits to commercial enterprise.

   This all changed when U.S. Government was no longer the primary
   funding body for the U.S. Internet, when the Internet truly went
   global, and when all commercial enterprises were allowed to join what
   had been strictly research networks.  Internet culture had become
   deeply embedded in the protocols the network used.  Although the
   social context has changed, the technical limits of the Internet
   protocols still require a person to enforce certain limits on
   resource usage for the 'Net to function effectively.  Strong
   authentication was not built into the News and Mail protocols.  The
   only thing that is saving the Internet from congestion collapse is
   the voluntary inclusion of TCP backoff in almost all of the TCP/IP

Hambridge & Lunde            Informational                      [Page 1]
RFC 2635                       DON'T SPEW                      June 1999

   driver code on the Internet.  There is no end-to-end cost accounting
   and/or cost recovery.  Bandwidth is shared among all traffic without
   resource reservation (although this is changing).

   Unfortunately for all of us, the culture so carefully nurtured
   through the early years of the Internet was not fully transferred to
   all those new entities hooking into the bandwidth.  Many of those
   entities believe they have found a paradise of thousands of potential
   customers each of whom is desperate to learn about stunning new
   business opportunities.  Alternatively, some of the new netizens
   believe all people should at least hear about the one true religion
   or political party or process.  And some of them know that almost no
   one wants to hear their message but just can't resist how inexpensive
   the net can be to use.  While there may be thousands of folks
   desperate for any potential message, mass mailings or Netnews
   postings are not at all appropriate on the 'Net.

   This document explains why mass unsolicited email and Netnews posting
   (aka spam) is bad, what to do if you get it, what webmasters,
   postmasters, and news admins can do about it, and how an Internet
   Service Provider might respond to it.

2.  What is Spam*?

   The term "spam" as it is used to denote mass unsolicited mailings or
   netnews postings is derived from a Monty Python sketch set in a
   movie/tv studio cafeteria.  During that sketch, the word "spam" takes
   over each item offered on the menu until the entire dialogue consists
   of nothing but "spam spam spam spam spam spam and spam."  This so
   closely resembles what happens when mass unsolicited mail and posts
   take over mailing lists and netnews groups that the term has been
   pushed into common usage in the Internet community.

   When unsolicited mail is sent to a mailing list and/or news group it
   frequently generates more hate mail to the list or group or apparent
   sender by people who do not realize the true source of the message.
   If the mailing contains suggestions for removing your name from a
   mailing list, 10s to 100s of people will respond to the list with
   "remove" messages meant for the originator.  So, the original message
   (spam) creates more unwanted mail (spam spam spam spam), which
   generates more unwanted mail (spam spam spam spam spam spam and
   spam).  Similar occurrences are perpetrated in newsgroups, but this
   is held somewhat in check by "cancelbots" (programs which cancel
   postings) triggered by mass posting.  Recently, cancelbots have grown
   less in favor with those administering News servers since the
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