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The Hidden Impacts of Anti-Spam Measures and their Contributions to the Digital Divide: An Exploratory Study

Christopher Lueg

Presented at ASIST 2004 Annual Meeting; "Managing and Enhancing Information: Cultures and Conflicts" (ASIST AM 04), Providence, Rhode Island, November 13 - 18, 2004


Proliferation of unrestricted Internet access has brought the community unsolicited commercial email, better known as spam. Underestimated for quite some time, spam is now recognized as a problem costing the community billions of dollars per annum. One of the direct impacts of the spam flood is the widespread deployment of anti-spam measures, such as email filters and block lists. In this paper, we summarize empirical and anecdotal evidence suggesting that apart from reducing the spam load, anti-spam measures are also undermining the global email system in terms of reliability and usability. In this paper, we outline some evidence for these unintended impacts of anti-spam measures. Furthermore, we discuss findings suggesting that anti-spam measures are also contributing to establishing a digital divide between those having a choice as to how they access their email (both from a technical perspective and from an educational point of view) and those who are not in this favorable position.

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