26 January 2004

Is the spam industry employing schizophrenics?

When I first read about Bayesian filtering for spam I dared to hope that it would work well enough to frustrate spammers out of existence. But of course I was wrong: it just created Darwinian pressure for craftier spam. Since Bayesian filtering looks for words and word patterns in email that denote spam or non-spam email, spammers are now trying to overwhelm the filters by adding weird random words that drown out the spammishness of such words as !V!I!A!G!R!A!

Lately, the efforts to outfox filters have taken a turn to the poetic. Today I received this little gem:

Jim gave an indignant neigh

Look at me! he cried

You may guess what an improvement is this automatic Record of Events, which is as reliable as Truth itself

Behold a real horse! The wooden animal gave a start, and then examined the other intently Nothing can be altered or falsified, for the vibratory currents convey the actual events to your vision, even as they happen

This seems oddly reminiscent of conversations I've had with folks on Market Street who have missed a few doses of their antipsychotic medications: rambling somewhere in the border territory between sense and nonsense. Perhaps some street people have now moved on to happier, more productive lives writing copy for the spam industry.

Two other things worth noting while I'm on the subject. Clive Thomson at Collision Detection has more on spam poetry, as well as antispam poetry, as part of his ongoing coverage of spam weirdness.

Plus, it's important that you read what British Parliment has to say on the subject of spam, in both senses of the word.

BARONESS STRANGE: My Lords, does the Minister agree that sardine tins and anchovy tins are also very difficult to open with their tin-openers?

LORD SAINSBURY OF TURVILLE: My Lords, I think I will just agree with the noble Baroness on that question.

LORD MITCHELL ASKED HER MAJESTY'S GOVERNMENT: What are their plans to reduce the growth in spam (unsolicited emails).

LORD SAINSBURY OF TURVILLE: My Lords, I hope the noble Lords will appreciate how I move seamlessly from corned beef to spam.

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