Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet (Infrastructures)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
The vast majority of all email sent every day is spam, a variety of idiosyncratically spelled requests to provide account information, invitations to spend money on dubious products, and pleas to send cash overseas. Most of it is caught by filters before ever reaching an in-box. Where does it come from? As Finn Brunton explains in Spam, it is produced and shaped by many different populations around the world: programmers, con artists, bots and their botmasters, pharmaceutical merchants, marketers, identity thieves, crooked bankers and their victims, cops, lawyers, network security professionals, vigilantes, and hackers. Every time we go online, we participate in the system of spam, with choices, refusals, and purchases the consequences of which we may not understand. This is a book about what spam is, how it works, and what it means. Brunton provides a cultural history that stretches from pranks on early computer networks to the construction of a global criminal infrastructure. The history of spam, Brunton shows us, is a shadow history of the Internet itself, with spam emerging as the mirror image of the online communities it targets. Brunton traces spam through three epochs: the 1970s to 1995, and the early, noncommercial computer networks that became the Internet; 1995 to 2003, with the dot-com boom, the rise of spam's entrepreneurs, and the first efforts at regulating spam; and 2003 to the present, with the war of algorithms -- spam versus anti-spam. Spam shows us how technologies, from email to search engines, are transformed by unintended consequences and adaptations, and how online communities develop and invent governance for themselves.
which does not merely ameliorate the painful setbacks produced by the deployment but actually generates a new technology that builds on the old for their own purposes. The most obvious and canonical instance of reconstitution in a technological drama, producing a “counterartifact” out of the existing technology, is the personal computer. Decades of development in computing had been the product of the military, academia, and contractors and corporations such as IBM. The computer was “the
society under the British), and so on. A similar multiplex set of alliances could be seen in the free/libre open source software (FOSS) movement, with businesses, individual charismatic activists, developers, and political radicals of many stripes and very diverse agendas trying to gather under the same banner. The epic semantic fork between the models of open source and free software in 1998 captures one of the moments when the ambiguities became unsustainable and had to be reformulated.
world, in six thousand active discussions and millions of words, without any formal law or proprietary control. The metaphors that are ultimately settled on can have powerful consequences. (The third section of this book, which is full of worms, zombies, bots, and metaphorical mushroom clouds, describes in detail some of these eventualities.) “All technologies involve ‘scripts,’” as Jessica Johnston reminds us in her ethnography of the computer antivirus industry. She illuminates how the
on a page to log which pages were linked to and then treating the outgoing links as votes for the linked pages. Google built on these earlier methods: a page is present in the index as a set of “hits,” “a list of occurrences of a particular word in a particular document including position, font, and capitalization information”—as it would be in a first-generation search engine’s index, with words weighted by their presence in headers, in meta tags, and in the body text and by their proximity to
computers, and you can also sell the raw data you acquire—$10 a megabyte, for others to pan through in search of profitable information and to go to the additional trouble of actually extracting the money. (The transactions between parties in the 180 CHAPTER 3 business are done through services like Yandex and WebMoney, services akin to PayPal but with greater market penetration in Russia and Eastern Europe.) If you buy a hundred “good” credit card numbers (verified, with CVV and all the ID