Spam's Big Bang!

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ILLUSTRATION FOR TIME BY GREG CLARKE

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Those who send spam for a living contend that some vigilantes, in their antispam fervor, take it too far. "I have had death threats against my family," complains Robert (Bubba) Catts, a former used-car salesman and professional bull rider from Shreveport, La. Catts, who runs a 10 million — message-a-day direct-marketing business and clears up to $700,000 a year, was exposed when his address and phone number were listed, along with those of 179 other "top spammers," on the British-based website Spamhaus.org.

The big e-mail providers are trying to tap into a little of that anger by enlisting the help of aggrieved users. REPORT SPAM buttons now adorn all e-mails in AOL, EarthLink and MSN software, and AOL alone receives 9 million reports a day. That may not be enough to stop the Carmacks of the world, but anything that saves us from a few more cable-descrambler ads can't be all bad.

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