Two names are synonymous with the death of the early Internet, and the rise of the cheesier, spam-filled one. The appearance of the husband-and-wife legal team Lawrence Canter and Martha Siegel marked the beginning of spam and the beginning of the end of the Usenet.
Canter was a bad lawyer. He had to resign from the Florida bar in 1988. On the 12th of April, 1994, these washed-up Arizona "lawyers" spammed over 6000 newsgroups with scam advertisements offering to help foreign nationals get green card status in the USA. Many computers worldwide crashed. The pair's internet account was terminated, and they did the unexpected: they threatened to sue the ISP. They subsequently got kicked off lots of ISPs, but kept on spamming. They were the poster children of the commercialized Internet. They even convinced Harper Collins to pay them to write a gloating Howto for other spammers, called How To Make A Fortune On The Information Superhighway (1994). In this effort they wrote:
...some starry eyed individuals who access the Net think of cyberspace as
a community, with rules, regulations and codes of behaviour. Don't you believe it! There is no community. Perhaps there was some truth in that concept in the past, when the Internet was used exclusively by a small, homogeneous group of academics and corporate technical researchers.
Today, with Internet access available to everyone, way travellers reflect every heterogeneous nuance of the world population. Along your journey, someone may try to tell you that in order to be a good Net "citizen", you must follow the rules of the cyberspace community. Don't listen. The only laws and rules with which you should concern yourself are those passed by the country, state and city in which you live. The only ethics you should adopt as you pursue wealth on the way are those dictated by the religious faith you have chosen to follow and your own good conscience.
The two quickly became the most detested duo on the Internet. They loved their infamy. Some non-Internet users, however, openly admired the two for their pluck and their capitalist vision. And some poor schmoes must have been buying the photocopied green card forms. Mercifully, these untalented know-nothings have faded into the woodwork, to be replaced by much cheesier e-commerce hustlers. You might be able to find their book if you check out those stores full of old computer books in bins, sold by the pound.