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February 18, 2004
Social Networking Cuts Spam in Half
We've blogged quite a bit about how social networking can be used as a filter for inbound and outbound messages, forming a mutable whitelist. Now in Nature Magazine, UCLA researchers are showing it can be effective for half of email
by forming both whitelists and blacklists.
The e-mail clusters can be mapped out by inspecting the 'from', 'to' and 'cc' fields in a user's inbox. An automated system can quickly build up a blacklist of spammers, as well as a 'whitelist' of approved sources.
Boykin and Roychowdhury found that by quantifying the clustering of incoming e-mails, they could eliminate about 54% of spam. E-mails above a certain 'clustering threshold' are always friendly, and those below a lower threshold are always spam. Messages that fall between these two clustering thresholds are 'don't knows' - the system can't be sure how to classify them. Typically, say the researchers, this applies to about 50% of the mail received.
The remaining half of the e-mail then has to be filtered in a more sophisticated way. But by then the scale of the problem has been cut in half.
When combined with other techniques it can be fairly effective, the remaining spam is waiting for an economic solution.
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