30th anniversary of spam? (which was about immigration)

From “An Ad (Gasp!) in Cyberspace” (New York Times, April 19, 1994):

An Arizona lawyer had an entrepreneurial idea: advertise his services over the Internet, the global web of computer networks.

Advertisements are beginning to appear all around the network, usually followed swiftly by messages of outrage and dismay from longtime denizens of cyberspace. However, no one can recall so relentless and pervasive an advertisement as the one sent last Tuesday by Mr. Canter’s law firm, Canter & Siegel.

Paying nothing beyond his $30 monthly connection fee, and with little more than the press of a button, Mr. Canter advertised his firm’s bid to provide legal services for people wanting to participate in the planned “green card” immigration lottery, in which the Federal Government intends to allow foreign applicants to vie for a United States work permit. Mr. Canter’s missive went to nearly every nook and cranny of the Internet, which has an estimated population of 20 million users.

The mailing list that Mr. Canter employed was the addresses of more than 9,000 Internet Usenet news groups. The Usenet is a particularly anarchic and popular segment of the Internet composed of discussion groups, typically in the form of electronic bulletin boards.

“The Internet is changing,” Mr. Canter said. “People don’t like the invasion of what has been their private world. But as long as it’s set up the way it is, where anyone has access to it, it’s a public forum, and they have to accept anything that comes into it.

“In fact,” Mr. Canter added, “I’ve received a lot of calls from people who want to know how to do it.”

So pleased is he with the the response, in fact, that he said he planned to write a book on how to advertise on the Internet.

Some more detail from WIRED:

in the early 1990s, Congress devised the Green Card Lottery program to encourage diversity in immigration. Unfortunately, it also provided an opportunity for charlatans to charge exorbitant fees to file lottery entries for hopeful immigrants.

In truth, all it took to enter the drawing was a postcard with your name and address mailed to the designated location.

Canter and Siegel, a husband-and-wife law firm, decided to join the lottery frenzy by pitching their own overpriced services to immigrant communities.

The spam is still available from Google Groups, which establishes the date as April 12, 1994:


  • Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel (Wikipedia): Canter and Siegel were not the first Usenet spammers. The “Green Card” spam, however, was the first commercial Usenet spam

4 thoughts on “30th anniversary of spam? (which was about immigration)

  1. While acknowledging that the migrants / immigrants / replacements are human beings worthy of dignity and respect, the current wave of immigration has the look and feel of a 3-D spam campaign.

    AKA “population bombing.”

  2. How it ended for Mr. Canter:
    “In 1997, the Supreme Court of Tennessee disbarred Canter in part for illegal advertising practices. William W. Hunt III, of the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, said at the time that he believed it was the first time a lawyer had been disciplined for Internet advertising practices.”

  3. Around 1995 I got the idea to harvest email addresses from websites and sent out a message to all of them. I forget the subject but perhaps I was seeking participation in an event. It wasn’t a business ad. One person wrote back and said to not spam him. I had never heard of spam. That was when I was first aware of it.

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