Of singing beans, SPAM and bills

Keith Baira Avatar

anti-spamBeans don’t yet sing or pay bills (sorry Jack and the Beanstalk fans). This is just an advocacy article, hoping to stop SMS and email messages that are unnecessary. Why is this an issue? Read on…

At half one in the morning, you have just come from watching Spain crash out of the World Cup. Your eyes are droopy, and joints have had it from a long day at work. No more than 30 minutes into a well-earned rest, you hear a chorus break out in your kitchen. Armed with your pillow, you tip toe into the kitchen area, ready to beat the daylights out of what you assume is a mentally disturbed intruder.

Lo and behold your eyes- it’s the can of baked beans you bought at lunch, chiming about some competition going on at the supermarket. Thoroughly annoyed, you visit the store, where they tell you that they felt you wanted to know about the competition. After a strong warning to desist from selling you any singing cans, you leave in a huff.

Again, at some ungodly hour, the pasta starts belting out an Adele ballad, as if in solidarity with the beans you just banned from singing. When you ask the store to explain, they inform that pasta is not considered a can. It is a different product they still feel the need to tell you about. This is despite the pasta being advertised on the radio, on the internet, on television – even on the billboard at your child’s school.

After an apology, you are informed that bringing the groceries individually back to the store every time you buy them is the only way to stop the midnight songs. Sounds ballistic? It’s not even the half of it.

On your way from home, you are supposed to meet up with your boss. Your battery is low, and you have switched off all other unnecessary services to conserve it for the one call you are waiting on. When the mobile rings, you feel a wave of relief pass through your spine, only to realise it’s your service provider telling you about a service they want you to pay for to access. As the call drops, your mobile switches off, and you become the insubordinate employee.

Midway through receiving the word on Sunday, your phone screams out a message notification, albeit grooving to your text ringtone. Imagine the embarrassment, as you open the text, only to be asked what score line will come out of the German-Dutch match?

It’s all funny until it happens to you. It does not matter how much you dislike it, there seems to be a growing market for spam experts in the country, as the grey area provides anyone with some emailing or texting ability fertile grounds for wreaking havoc. There is no act that outlaws spam SMS and emails in Zimbabwe. Put differently, as many creepy people in the country are allowed to contact you, as long as the message they send is not offensive, derogatory or inciting violence, implicitly or explicitly.

My thoughts or possible solution? A bill (hopefully passed in Parliament) that:
“Only allows the distribution of communication of any form, through an operator’s own, or a competitor’s infrastructure that is

  1. directly related to service interruption, or
  2. a transaction’s particulars, such as recharging or mobile money transfer notification

From an operator, its subsidiaries or a third party, except when an express request of that particular service, is supplied in written form.

no-spamAny marketing, promotional or non-service related information must require explicit approval, by means of an evidence based written request to receive the message.”
If you agree it is enough, please join in the campaign on Facebook, by posting your grievance, along with the hashtag #antispam, and by using the non-spam sign on the right on social media, to finally bring this to Parliament’s doorstep.

Let’s see another SMS or email bypass that bill.