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SpamLit and Spoetry

1 Jun 2013

A recurring part of my job that I didn't sign up for is helping clients cope with spam, whether it's spammers submitting to a forum or sending email. Starting in about 2008, I became fascinated with the language of spam and started pondering how spam is partly about fooling the reader, but equally about fooling other computers.

How do you lie to a computer? Confusing it is a good way to start, which is why so much spam uses corrupted natural language. Plus, humans don't get confused so easily, and if we're not reading carefully, we may mistake spam for ham.

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But because humans can recognize the spam, we teach our computers to recognize it too. So the spammers change their approach. Block "Viagra" and the spammers will write "V1agra." Filter for text, they'll put their message in a graphic.

Although I have a folder full of notes and a shelf full of philosophy books about truth and deception, I haven't ever been able to get a handle on this ever-shifting and evolving problem, although it fascinates me. Imagine my pleasure discovering the emerging literary genres of SpamLit--passages used to disguise a spam that closely resemble literature-- or Spoetry, which ranges from found poems to poems inspired by spam.

Delving into the question of why spam has become more literate, I discovered Spam: The Shadow History of the Internet, by Finn Brunton. Apparently our earnest brigades of tireless anti-spam fighters prevailed. Spammers were forced to re-evaluate their approach, and "Somewhere, an algorithmic bot with a pile of text files and a mailing list made a Joycean gesture announcing spam's modernism."

Quotation:
These Changing Crack Hatriots

Provincial concertmaster was

by inheritor

healing erectile dysfunction excitement

remaining youthful

dumpy

extremely alarmed?

else equivocate or Aztec?

Quitting curious sex can turn back the clock.

Ashtray transfer in Jacksonburg

(it can also add excitement)

stumped beautiful

almighty Jewish

creation, which

currently embraced a retard,

because sawdust as so votive go or

until Barceloneta was seismograph expression.

Bootlegged marriage pleasantries

devotes standardized quagmired surrogate enhancements.

Paraplegia mousetrap happiness

idealizes screechy twisted globule bachelor.

When will this finish?

Se volvieron locos? ejecutan a cuatro en menos de 3 horas!

- Maata Kurth

Poems Made From Spam »

Guardian Review: Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet by Finn Brunton »

Spoems »

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