In this account of the first spam (and email spam’s illustrious history), the most interesting bit, to me, is rms‘s involvement.
[RMS] at first wondered why people were so upset about the message. He later said the mistaken placement of all the addresses into the body did bother him, but he gets the dubious honour of being perhaps the first spam defender. Of course like all of us he was 25 years younger and the problem was brand new.
RMS still comes down on the free-speech side of spam — and the Gnu mailing lists don’t block spam (as far as I know).
Brad Templeton make some interesting points: Spam pushes people who would proudly (and correctly) trumpet how we shouldn’t blame ISPs for offensive web sites, copyright violations and/or MP3 trading done by downstream customers to suddenly call for blacklisting of all the innocent users at an ISP if a spammer is to be found among them. Which is true. But from what I can tell, people have moved far beyond just blacklists. It was attractive at first — a solution that seemed simple to an annoying problem — but people quickly discovered the costs.
In all his history of spam and the different means to combat it is a good overview of current practices.