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E-mail Tax As Way Of Preventing Spam

Hemos posted more than 11 years ago | from the building-the-future dept.

Spam 592

scubacuda writes "This FT article criticizes current attempts to regulate spam. Re: Lessig's bounty-on-spammer proposal: 'This is a terrible idea that will make millionaires of two classes of people: reprobates who illegally maraud through others' hard drives; and those who have built their expertise about spam by peddling it, 'He considers the recent FTC spam conference "barking up the wrong tree," and thinks that the simplest way to regulate spam is through a tax: 'This requires smashing some myths....But, very soon, the Internet should turn into a penny post, with a levy of 1 cent per letter. This would cost the average e-mailer about $10 a year. Small companies would pay bills in the hundreds of dollars; very large ones in the thousands. And spammers would be driven to honest employment. The tax could be made progressive by exempting, say, those who sent fewer than 5,000 letters a year. The proceeds could go to maintain and expand bandwidth.'"

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Don't you love me anymore?!? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5880322)

404 File Not Found
The requested URL (articles/03/05/05/1055253.shtml?tid=126&tid=1 11) was not found.

If you feel like it, mail the url, and where ya came from to pater@slashdot.org.

Is taxation best? (5, Insightful)

blueidoru (655798) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880325)

However, if ISPs are the ones paying for bandwidth... how would a "tax" help, per se? Should ISPs charge for email? And, if so, won't spammers overseas still get away with things? (Actually, with taxes, they do too.)

Re:Is taxation best? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5880493)

Hey we tax cigarettes to help fund anti-smoking programs and pay for lung cancer treatment. Right? HaHa, and the email tax will go to ISPs. We're really funny today.

We should tax marijuana sales to fund detox centers. We can put a payroll tax on all illegals who work in restaurants and crop fields to fund unemployment for citizens.

By the way, we really do tax marijuana and if you pay the tax, it's legal to possess it. It's just that there's no mechanism to collect it and no gov't agent will accept payment. Minor point of law.

Re:Is taxation best? (4, Insightful)

banzai51 (140396) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880530)

It wouldn't. But the government could finally cash in on the internet. Its all in our best interests of course.

Re:Is taxation best? (0)

banzai51 (140396) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880542)

For the humor impaired: that last sentence was dripping with sarcasm.

Historical First. (5, Informative)

Chris_Stankowitz (612232) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880327)

Urban legend comes to life. Wasn't this a myth passed along (via spam of course) years ago. Except I think it claimed the USPS was responsible for the tax.

Not with false headers (4, Insightful)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880329)

If spammers cover their tracks then they can't be taxed. Just go after the spammed products that are advertised. This would stop spam at the source.

Re:Not with false headers (2, Interesting)

jjo (62046) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880384)

The point is that e-mail recipients are the real beneficiaries of the tax, and they are therefore motivated to ensure its payment. One simple approach would be to have the taxing authority issue 'e-stamps'. The receiving e-mail program would check the e-stamp for validity and non-reuse (the stamp would be keyed to the particular sender, recipient, and timestamp of the message).

If the e-stamp was invalid, the recipient's program could either just throw the message away, or forward it to the tax authorities for enforcement action. Either way, the tax achieves its purpose.

Re:Not with false headers (4, Insightful)

Jens (85040) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880490)

"One simple approach would be to have the taxing authority issue 'e-stamps'. The receiving e-mail program would check the e-stamp for validity and non-reuse ..."

We already have this. It's called a PGP signature.

The cost is a couple CPU cycles. Per email. Non-reusable, quick, easy and efficient. If everybody would start using PGP (which IMHO is a hell of a lot more likely than everybody switching to an "email-tax compatible" state-mandated commercial email client), we wouldn't have a spam problem any more.

Spammers just can't afford to sign their mails - with any signature. It's too expensive in CPU cycles. And note that the point here is NOT to validate the sender, it's just to validate that the sender had to burn a couple CPU cycles (which takes maybe a second on a 500MHz computer, for each email) to send it.

Re:Not with false headers (4, Informative)

terraformer (617565) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880388)

The problem is that the little "feature" of SMTP named forged headers is incredibly useful for people. What needs to happen is a header that can identify the server and user that sent it. But not the From: feild. This would require some combination of digital signatures and SMTP auth.

Re:Not with false headers (1)

Chris_Stankowitz (612232) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880412)

If spammers cover their tracks then they can't be taxed. Just go after the spammed products that are advertised. This would stop spam at the source.

That wouldn't work. I know many don't view large drug companies as being very ethical. However, I doubt a company the likes of Pfizer needs to use spam to sell Viagra. They probabbly didn't need to spend 1$ to sell it for that matter. Yet, I we all know that we get a few of these messages a day. Sure many are for a bunch of unknown products that may or may not be directly tied to the spamer, but you would still have to go after the spamer or the person employing them and the products THEY sold.

Won't Help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5880472)

Most products advertised by spam are fraudulent anyway. I seriously doubt that this "Viagra" has ever seen a Pfizer factory.

What we need are stricter laws against fraud, especially health fraud, mortgage & loan swindles and Make Money Fast scams.

Re:Sig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5880481)

Dude, like, the decimal jumped two spots to the left. Buggy code?

I'd go for it (5, Funny)

nother_nix_hacker (596961) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880340)

I think this is a good idea. I would gladly pay tax on email to stop me spending all of my money on penis enlargements!

Re:I'd go for it (1)

swordboy (472941) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880499)

I think this is a good idea.

Me too... The tax would accelerate the development of a mail transfer protocol that does not lend itself to spamming. There are many solutions out there... none of them will ever be used because everyone is so lazy.

Why don't they just ban SMTP? It would probably be cheaper.

straight jacked (1)

Dogun (7502) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880342)

Seriously, I know this kid, we call him "Oafy the Spam Bot" - he responds to literally 4/5 emails he's ever gotten. Not only that, he initiates about as much as he responds.

For someone like him, this would royally suck. And as much as it sucks to be spammed by my good friend Oafy, Oafy is still a friend, and his spam isn't advertisements for hot sexy teens to suck and fuck my cock.

Effective, yes.
Good, no.

Plus, what are they going to do next? Tax pings? Times you initiate connections over port 6667?

My $0.02 US

it makes perfect sense - if you think about it (1, Insightful)

Unominous Coward (651680) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880343)

By having any completely free resource, you open the system up to abuse.

Sure, people hate paying for what they used to get for free, but if the price is reasonable then there's no reason not to accept it.

Note that I said reasonable price. In many cases where charges are introduced, the people running the system usually manage to turn this into a money-making exercise before too long.

Re:it makes perfect sense - if you think about it (3, Insightful)

quizwedge (324481) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880420)

Income tax was originally outlawed in the U.S. It was deemed necessary at some point, but only the extremely wealthy had to pay so it was accepted. Now look where we are. Yes, it may start out at one cent per e-mail (or even a fraction of a cent per e-mail), but what happens if that's "not effective enough" or "costs of bandwidth go up"?

Re:it makes perfect sense - if you think about it (3, Insightful)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880454)

Why should 99% of the people have to pay because 1% are fucking it up for everyone else?

Re:it makes perfect sense - if you think about it (1)

Neck_of_the_Woods (305788) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880514)


Because it is the easy solution that reaps the largest power grab.

Re:it makes perfect sense - if you think about it (3, Insightful)

jackb_guppy (204733) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880500)

All an email tax gets you... IS SPAM.

Look at the direct mailers filling the land fills with credit card offers and other equally unneed things.

Their business model INCLUDES the mailing cost cost (less than what you can pay) and the print costs. The USPS helps them to get in business.

Last I heard 80% of all mailings was junk mail.

Now a tax to send email... The ISP gets a cut, so they can increase network bandwidth. We pay as users to increase network bandwidth. They SPAMERS would pay too, it is included in their costs.

So what do you get... The same model as the USPS.

Now that shows why a price per email is not going to stop anything.

mailing lists (3, Insightful)

IrregularApocalypse (654003) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880344)

thats a really good idea :-/ what about mailing lists? i'm on several, and its not uncommon for me to get several hundred emails per day... why are there so many fools in the world... [sigh]

a really bad idea (5, Insightful)

danny (2658) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880350)

Quite apart from the enforcement problems (international jurisdiction, for one thing), this would kill a lot of mailing lists completely. I run some small lists for distributing my book reviews, for example, sending out maybe 2000 messages a month, and even US$20/month would deter me from doing that. And the big discussion lists I'm on would cost a fortune to run at 1c/message.

Ok, so maybe people signing up to a list would have to pay for the messages they receive... but now we're basically talking micropayments!

Danny.

In the words of George Harrison... (5, Funny)

restive (542491) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880352)

If you drive a car-car I'll tax the street
If you try to sit-sit I'll tax your seat
If you get too cold I'll tax the heat
If you take a walk I'll tax your feet
Tax man

Honestly, folks, this is not an original attempt at problem solving here. This is the kind of thing that ordinary ninnies in the U.S. legislature think up.

Tax collection would be near impossible (1)

chrisbw (609350) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880353)

I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it would be to assess and collect on these taxes. Yeah -- spam sucks -- but not enough to start paying more taxes for it. You would begin to unnaturally add costs to something that's supposed to be a cost-saver.

Mailing lists? (3, Insightful)

Matt_Bennett (79107) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880354)

Some of us still run mailing lists to connect a group of friends- who pays then? It is a perfectly legitimate use... but it seems scary if I'm would have to register my mailing list to get an 'exemption'

I think the biggest failing in this is that to tax email would require a massive change to the email infrastructure- just send all email through your government approved relay. Sure- they won't look at it... putting this on top of SMTP- I don't think it would work- what would be the incentive to use it (other than possibly spam free email)?

Chilling effect on public free forums. (5, Insightful)

torpor (458) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880357)

I run ampfea.org. We have been an open, free, highly communicative community for the last 6 years, surviving solely on contributions (donations) made by members to keep our services alive. We've done okay with it, but it hasn't been easy at times.

Now, adding *tax* to our e-mail (most of our forums are based on mailing list traffic) would completely cut down on the ability for members to communicate freely. Tax on e-mail is a *BAD* idea.

There are plenty of effective ways to deal with the SPAM problem. Tax is not one of them. Tax is never a solution to any problem.

broken record (3, Insightful)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880359)

I probably sound like a broken record, but a plan like this one closes the door on lots of legitimate uses of email.

Thousands of email lists such as those hosted on Sourceforge would be shut down by a plan like this one, as well as killing lists like the Linux Kernel Mailing List, which sends millions of messages a year.

Also gone would be the days of the open mailing list, where people can send a message to the list without being subscribed, as is common in the open source world.

In short, this proposal guarantees that the only people able to use legitimate email lists will be large companies with the budget to spam. I got an unsolicited email from Wachovia this morning, apparently since I had a First Union account, they turned on all the marketing "spam me" options in my profile when the two merged.

I don't see how this tax will deter these semi-legitimate corporate spammers.

Enforceable? (5, Interesting)

Surak (18578) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880365)

First off, how the fsck do they intend to even enforce something like that? I can setup an e-mail server on a *nix box in 5 minutes. (Literally, I know I've done it). How do you account for how many e-mails a user sent?

Secondly, what about businesses? We probably send at least a few hundred (non-spam) e-mails a day out to the public Internet where I work, we'd get hit pretty hard.

And lastly, this is just an other tax, another form of revenue generation. We don't NEED more taxes. I'm sick to death of the government sticking out its greedy little hand. Go AWAY! I already pay tax on everything I buy, every drop of gas I put in my car, every cigarette I smoke, every drop of alcohol I consume, and every dollar I make. I pay property taxes, and I pay a form of tax when I go to the state parks to camp. I pay a tax to license the car I drive, and to just have the privelege of being able to drive.

No, I'm sick of it. Put your greedy little hand back in your pocket and go away!

Uhm...and what if you have an e-mail virus? (2, Insightful)

Ethelred Unraed (32954) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880366)

So what if you're infected by an e-mail virus that spams everyone in your address book? Should you be held liable and therefore pay for sending e-mail you didn't mean or want to send? Should you be held liable for security flaws in software you have no control over?

Yes, you (usually) have control over *which* e-mail client you use -- but there is no totally secure e-mail client. (Or do we expect everyone to use mutt or pine?)

This sounds like a simple idea, but to me the implications are a lot worse than receiving spams.

My counter-suggestion (pulled fresh outta my butt) would be e-mail quotas. Each account would have a quota of, say, 100 e-mails (or perhaps 100 SMTP SEND reqs) a day -- any more than that and you pay.

Cheers,

Ethelred

Re:Uhm...and what if you have an e-mail virus? (1)

Arethan (223197) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880515)

One quick question: How does giving the first 100 or so free prevent you from paying for email worms that continuously spam everyone in your address book? I have about 300 contacts in my address book at work. But even if I only had 5, by your idea, after 20 cycles of spams (which I would likely never see happening) I'd still start to pay for it.

Read my lips (1)

squarooticus (5092) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880368)

Can we please not give the government any more opportunities to tax us? Please?

bounces ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5880373)

So would all the bounces that spammers use be classified as bounty candidates?

I'll just start a private class of millionares that hunts in the 24.x.x.x forest.

MUWWWAAAAHAAHAA!!!

Bad idea (1)

JimDabell (42870) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880374)

Bye-bye mailing lists.

Bye-bye opt-in lists (hey, believe it or not, there are some products I am interested in).

Bye-bye email notifications whenever anybody replies to one of your comments on slashdot.

Bye-bye a million other valid uses of bulk mailings.

Re:Bad idea (2, Insightful)

Duckling (240739) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880432)

Not to mention:

Bye-bye free email services

Bye-bye anonymous email-services

Hell NO! (1)

s.a.m (92412) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880376)

You've got to be fucking kidding me. Pay a penny per mail? Do you realize how much mail is sent outa my server per day? Fuck I'm not paying a couple of hundred bucks for something I give away for free!

I host several mailing lists and several other individuals with personal email accounts. This is all in good fun and I make no money from it. They want me to now PAY?! FUCK THAT! How the fuck you gonna regulate it? If you start charging for emails you're gonna fucking make millionares of a lot of sick twisted fucks out there who are just waiting for this to happen.

I'd rather take the spam than pay for emails. The lesser of the two evils in this case is spam...what has the world come to.

*throws hands up in air*

how? (1)

sabshire (40466) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880377)

And just how do they think that this will be regulated? The only conceivable way would be ALL who control a mail server to consent to audits of their servers. NOT going to happen. What a STUPID idea!

Enforcement (1)

quantum bit (225091) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880379)

And how exactly would this tax be enforced? Outlaw private mail servers? I don't think the people on the domains I host for my family and friends would be too happy about that.

The beast gets a facelift (1)

SlashdotLemming (640272) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880381)

Most of my mail (not email) goes straight into the trash/shredder. Why? its junk mail. And last time I checked, the senders of junk mail have to pay.
The game will change, but the results will be the same

No! (5, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880382)

But, very soon, the Internet should turn into a penny post, with a levy of 1 cent per letter.

And kill off every user group, listserv, church mailing list, etc, etc.

Why do *I* have to suffer to stop idiot spammers?

Go after THEM, not me. Somewhere in the spam is a contact number or address (he has to get his money somehow). Ignore the often false reply to: and use that instead.

A penny an email will only ensure that some poor grandma is going tot get hit with a huge bill, because her PC or acct got hijacked, and the spams went out under her name.

Re:No! (1)

Azghoul (25786) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880568)

Your last line is the salient one. The problem is technological: Spammers will always find a technological way around something as silly as a new tax (hi-jacking grandma's computer. Sending 4,999 from each of 1,000 free hotmail accounts... whatever).

Make forged headers illegal, heck, make spam itself illegal and hang a few spammers out to dry. Make the environment for spammers even more difficult than it is now. But don't even think about trying to tax people for using Email legitimately...

Good Idea (1)

ne0nex (612727) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880385)

I think this is a good idea I for one would not mind having to pay a small fee per e-mail message as long as the costs is say 10-20 dollars a year. An exemption to home users with less volume would be subject to exploitation by savvy spammers... or spammers with savvy IT people.

like the enhanced 911 tax? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5880389)

This would be about as effective as the enhanced 911 tax on cell phones. The bandwidth would never be expanded, spammers never chased for back "taxes" and the politicians would use the money to plant a garden during an election year for extra publicity. I suppose at least no one will drown on long island sound as a result of the pandering.

Proof-of-work (2, Interesting)

squarooticus (5092) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880390)

Why not use HashCash [cypherspace.org] or some other proof-of-work-based system? At least then I wouldn't be forking more of my money over to Uncle Sam for some transaction he has absolutely nothing to do with.

Uh ? (1)

stud9920 (236753) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880393)

Mailing list, anyone ? Free Software (technically as in beer) mailing lists, anyone ?

Oh dear (1)

johnburton (21870) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880399)

Apart from the obvious technical problems that would make this unworkable I see one problem with having a tax on email and that is that once taxes are established, even in a "good" cause they because revenue raisers. I could see the amount starting to go up each year. And if I use something other than smtp via an isp to send my email, what happens then? It would probably become illegal to send messages other than via the proper taxed email system. You'd be a criminal for using ICQ as you'd be avoiding paying tax.

Re:Oh dear (1)

sirinek (41507) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880468)

Kind of a sidetrack, does anyone even use ICQ anymore? I thought everyone was driven off of there by the endless stream of bots. My friends list of 250 people never seems to have more than 5-6 people online anymore.

Nice Idea, but ..... (1)

Maliuta (16315) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880401)

This is a nice idea, but for it to work the SMTP protocol would need to be re-written.

If we are to to take this lenght then why not just re-engineer the protocol so that only "trusted mail hosts" can transmit mail from one place to another, similar to the workings of DNS. By adding this level of security we could identify the actual individuals spamming and revoke their email privilages, it easier than taxing and works across national boundries.

beacuase lets get real about internat taxing, the only way for it to work is by international treaty and then we deal with who collects - and keeps - the "tax" (I think the obvious would be the ISP, in which case they can waive it if they feel the need). The reality is that not _all_places that exist would sign and some places would become spam havens.

If we are serious about ridding ourselves of the plaugue-o-spam we need to take a look at how we transport email from one place to another and then think of ways to tighten the loop so that people cannot just open a connection and send an million plus messagages wihtout identifying themselves fully.

Relaying & trojan smtps (4, Insightful)

selderrr (523988) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880405)

this taxation neglects the issues of virii that install smpt servers on John Q. Average's computer trhu which spam gets sent. Kinda hard to tax.

Additionally ,if such a bill passes, I can imagine tons of new virii popping up that use VB to send daisy chaned spam from one client to another.

Whitelists are the way to go for me.

Dumb Idea (4, Insightful)

xigxag (167441) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880407)

The problem to begin with is that spammers falsify their headers. Therefore under this plan, innocent people would get stuck with a tax bill. If there was a simple automatic process to trace the origin of spam to its source, then we could do that to begin with and simply block the true sender.

In other words, in order to properly implement a tax, we'd have to have already solved the spam problem, which would make the tax superfluous.

Bull! (1)

PincheGab (640283) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880411)

What's so hard to understand about actually enforcing a law that calls for legitimate and accurate headers on all e-mail? We don;t need taxes to deter spammers! Lawsuits and jail time are deterrent enough. Why add one more new tax? How will the e-mails be regulated? They wil have to come up with a new mail protocol, unless they require everyone running a mail server to file a yearly tax form! That would be worse than the spam!

Implementation issues (1)

supercytro (527265) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880414)

Ignoring legal and social issues for the moment, the underlying infrastructure for emails will need to undergo a change to stop spammers circumventing the charges i.e. using someone elses mail server and changing the headers such as from: However, it has potential... How about a new protocol allowing different charge amounts to be placed on the mails or for sender to pay recipient. Win-win for both parties?

Penny Post - but with refunds a better idea (1)

Cushman (73322) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880415)

This has been suggested many times before. If we take such a drastic measure as to change SMTP to enable us to charge a penny per message, why not send that penny to the recipient? Then, the recipient can choose to refund the penny if he wanted the e-mail, and keep it if he didn't want the e-mail.

The only part that bothers me is having to have a bank account or micropayment system to send e-mail. It kinda takes away from the whole "freedom of the internet" thing.

No Internet Tax (3, Insightful)

oddRaisin (139439) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880417)

Taxation is only rational when the government actually provides a service. I realise that at the end of the posting, it said that revenues would go towards increasing bandwidth (like anybody believes that), but right now there are thousands of kilometers of dark fibre -- bandwidth ain't the issue.

To put forward idea that we pay taxes on e-mail is to display your ignorance of how e-mail works. If I set up an e-mail server at my own expense, and send an e-mail through it to another server, set up at the recipients own expense, I fail to see where the government's services come into it. After running a few traceroutes to my most common e-mail destinations, all the hops belonged to corporations, not the government.

And those are just the techno-political reasons why taxes don't make sense. What about internation e-mails. I live/work in Canada, but a lot of our business is international (States, UK, etc).

I also don't think that the spam-killers-for-hire is a good idea either (difficult to regulate, and a good chance of a lot of innocent bystanders getting hurt.)

I personally like signed e-mails, and much stiffer penalties for spammers. This may seem like a soft solution, but laws end up being the last recourse. As many on Slashdot jump at pointing out, technological barriers are easily overcome, especially by a large group of determined people.

Enforcement (1)

sql*kitten (1359) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880418)

The problem with any anti-spam proposals is not making laws, it's enforcing them. The EU can pass all the anti-spam legislation [adlawbyrequest.com] it wants, but that doesn't help when the spam originates outside your jurisdiction. Deputize ISPs to fight it? Doesn't work; after all, Customs and Excise officials aren't sent to jail when drugs come into the country, the smugglers are, if they can be caught. The Post Office aren't responsible if someone sends unwanted junk mail.

It won't be long now before people only accept mail from known senders, and if you want to be on someone's list, you have to contact them by another means to get set up. That's how it is on ICQ right now, if you ignore everyone that you don't specifically permission, then even your friends can't contact you to ask to be permissioned, unless they use mail, the phone, etc. Once that happens, the spam problem will go away shortly afterwards, and the inconvenience will be minor. Even now, people have a "spam" account that they use when they need to register on a website, and a private one given only to friends. The signal-to-noise ratio makes it worthwhile; I abandoned Usenet years ago because S/N was too poor, closed mailing lists are far better. Slashdot was almost unusable for a while, then moderation and thresholds were introduced.

Spam's a real problem, but it's one that can be solved in a fairly straightforward way, and it will be as soon as more people get the support for "friends only" in their mail clients.

Article is lacking Technological Saavy (5, Insightful)

DLG (14172) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880419)

The idea that one could tax email per letter (not per bandwidth) is inane at best. It means that people will actually stop sending smaller email, the kind that really improves the ability to quickly communicate and respond to communications, and beyond that an effort will be made to economize on a business scale, by getting the most value for your 1 cent (video clips being emailed).

As a second issue, how does the government tax foreign entities for email? And who do you tax, when spam is notoriously made difficult to trace?

And beyond that, I can imagine the dozens, if not thousands, of hackers, just waiting to have this sort of incentive to develop a better SMTP, one that solves many of the problems and loopholes that SMTP currently causes.

Also the article suggests that the federal government should be creating an Federal sales tax on internet purchases. Perhaps I am wrong, but I thought I already paid state tax. Atleast I do with any company that is doing business properly. This doesn't seem different than the old style catalog sales, where you order something out of state to avoid tax. I know Apple charges state tax in NY.

Really for a publication called the financial times, this is not a very financially sensible or reality based article. it seems to be written by someone whose only experience in the internet is reading about it.

Re:Article is lacking Technological Saavy (0)

liposuction (176349) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880551)

What about the fact that the government doesn't own or upkeep the internet? I mean, GODDAMN STOP TAXING ME FOR EVERYTHING!

"Sir that's perfectly good air, you didn't think it was free did you?"

Spammers (1)

rf0 (159958) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880421)

Spammers use a variety of tactics to hide themselves including using open proxies, forged email addresses, throw away domain + dialup accounts. The hardest thing I see is actually tying a spam into a particular group/person

Rus

Theoretically sound (5, Insightful)

seldolivaw (179178) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880422)

...but it would never happen.
  1. How do free e-mail services work when mail costs money? A large group of the poorest users would decide to stick with the cheap, zero-cost mail, even if that meant they received lots of spam.
  2. How do you manage the transition? Do people who have penny post refuse e-mail from people who don't? That would put a huge barrier up against upgrading: "hey, buy our e-mail product and you won't be able to receive e-mails from anybody but other people who've bought our product!"
  3. How do you manage authenticity? Spammers are not the most scrupulous people; they already show no qualms about breaking the laws that exists against spam. Why would they pay attention to this one? Spammers would simply find some technological loophole or a security flaw and exploit it to send mass cheap e-mail anyway.


Spam is a natural result of an unregulated network. The reason the Internet is so interesting and creative is because it's unregulated. You have to take the rough with the smooth. Sure, get angry at the spammers, prosecute them even. But don't think about restricting freedoms just because it's convenient to do so: that's what DMCA is about, and the Patriot act, and all the dozens of other stupid "anti-terrorist" laws that countries around the world are implementing right now.

Give me freedom, or give me death. I'll take the spam.

Regarding 'taxation' (1)

grokBoy (582119) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880423)

But, very soon, the Internet should turn into a penny post, with a levy of 1 cent per letter

What about us unfortunate not-for-profit types that run huge mailing lists? With reasonable traffic a list maintainer could be spending thousands of dollars per day.

Traditional 'penny post' is a unicast medium - each letter has only one recipient (unless a specific copy has been made by the sender.) A paper-based mailing list service would no doubt negotiate a special rate with the postal service to lower their costs - the exact opposite of the intended effect of this levy on spammers.

Altenate suggestion (2, Interesting)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880426)

I doubt something like this could be incorporated into global legislation even if we had 10 years to do it. It's simply far to hard to maintain.

I think that a scheme where there would be a law on marking every email advertisement with something like [Advertisement] in the subject would be much more efficient. That is easier to track, and draws a clear line between obeying the law and not.

Using a system like this most people would filter out the spam, and the spammers would find their activities unprofitable. There would still be offenders, but surely it is cheaper to go after them compared to a global email taxation system?

This won't work. (1, Insightful)

mrwonka (131100) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880433)

The paper / production cost and postage dosn't stop those people who mail me flyers every week.

Why then would a $.01 email tax work ? Even at that cost it would still be the cheapest and most effecient way to advertise.

Maybe we should start taxing /. posts to cut down on the trolls.

Impossible to effectively implement (2, Insightful)

Arethan (223197) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880436)

This won't work for two reasons.
Open mail relays and forged message headers.

If you can't track the source, you can't bill them. So then who do you bill? The company with the open relay? Some would say that's a good way to promote good system administration, but remember that the bill imposed could easily put a company out of business and into bankruptcy. Sounds a little strong to me.

I still feel that we are better off not having a mandatory tax. Instead, set up third party message verification systems. Emailers can, for a fee, have their message ran through an intense one way hashing/encryption system to create a special "Registed Email" message header, which is then sent along with the original message to the intended recipient(s). Using this system is entirely optional, but read on for the benefits of using it at least once per recipient.

Upon reciept, the recieving email client will see the special header, check it's validity with the issuer, and place it in the user's inbox. If the message does not have the 'registed email' header, then the sender's name is checked against a list of known users. If the user is known (from having been manually entered or already recieved 1 registed email in the past, and not in the blocked senders list, the mail will again go into the users's inbox. All other mail is automatically placed in a folder of the user's choice. If that means the trash, fine.

There you go. Don't need to even care about open mail relays, because if you've never heard of them before, and they don't send registered email, you'll never see their penis enlarging message. I've thrown this idea out before, but I thought I'd see if I could get more feedback on it.

Keep the Feds out! (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880443)

I've said it before that we need to keep the feds out of controlling email! They are horribly irresponsible right now. Taxes are not the way!

What AOL is doing IS the way. By seting a fairly decent criteria for restrictions then internally blocking the hell out of people. Granted, they could abuse it, but their customers wouldn't allow it to get out-of-hand, or go elsewhere; they're business people after all!

I still think there's a technical way to throttle spam. Maybe we need a "White" Hole List that good ISPs can sign, or tie into BIND to tie spammer domains to DNS. What needs to happen is that the Local ISPs need to take responsibility for what gets IN thru THEIR pipes! It would seem that things like DDOS and spam would have recognizable signatures on a network connection that ISPs could deal with. Much like the recent DNS missue, why the root servers are [should] only be accessable by ISPs; if they are, why are they still sending 90% junk to them. Same with spam! If you tied each email to a network-time-connection cost, then that would throttle spammers without hurting us normal users.

What ever happens DO NOT EXPECT THE GOVERNMENT TO MAKE IT BETTER. NEVER HAVE NEVER WILL!

How? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5880444)

So how exactly are you going to "meter" e-mail? Mass monitoring of port 25?

Even IF (and that's a big if) you manage to convince ISP's around the globe to buy into this taxation scheme, internet users will REVOLT.

What's to stop anyone from setting up an alternate mail system (say, Citadel/UX or even Fidonet!)? They can't meter that.

Why am I starting to think "Trystro" from Pynchon? Any attempt to tax email WILL end up creating a Trystro. Heck, maybe that's just what we need.

(reaching for muted bugle...)

Small inboxes at the cost of community? (1)

sonicsft (195337) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880445)

For a momment lets put aside the cost and feasability of implementation. The internet is the most unregulated open space. People of all nations in the world can generally get access without being hampered by opressive firewalls(yes I am aware of China) and in the western world you can generally get on the net for free if you need to. Everyone can exchange ideas and communicate for free. Now suppose everyone had to chip in a penny every time they sent an email. Who pays for it? The ISP or the user? What about the user who participates in a dozen mailing lists, and communicates with friends? Why should that user have to pay for legitimate use of the internet? ISP prices will go up, and networks will close. Instead of being able to send mail to anyone anytime of the day you'll actually have to stop and think. It'll be like many Cellular providers with the unlimited on the same netowrk rates. People will group with one carrier inside online communities like AOL and possibly even opt-out of email service to avoid a fee increse. Regulation of email in my mind poses the threat of sending the net deeper into the dark ages of communication.

Good idea (1)

SonicTooth (561342) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880447)

I think its a good idea, only problem is, how will you tax the spammers. Its easy enough to set up dedicated lines and such in smaller countries without restrictive goverments. It seems like true spam rebels would get around this.

But the greater the 5,000 a year is also a very good idea, i just feel bad for the various BDFL's of big open source projects.

GOOD IDEA?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5880448)

Seriously, this is a bad idea.
I live in Illinois, and the toll (just a tax per usage of roads) was only supposed to be temporary. But once the government realized it was a good money maker, and got a vested interest in it, it stayed forever. The government would think that $ .01/email would be great, but $.02 would be better, and $.03 and $.04 and pretty soon it's approaching u.s. post office prices. In fact the U.S. post office is a perfect example: I recall reading somewhere that the Post Office is making a pretty good profit, yet stamps keep going up in price.

Another serious issue is what government would collect the tax? Federal? State? Local? All three?
What about international email??

Not a box you want to open, touch or mail.

Re:GOOD IDEA?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5880559)

Have you ever seen the ITollway Palace out by Oakbrook Terrace? Plush, man, and it's empty. Mgt was embarrassed by it, so they left it empty and bought another building. Cool.

It costs the Tollway more to collect the tolls than revenue received. They have to borrow every penny for new construction.

The orginal bonds were retired in 1979, but the staff never did.

Gonna tax instant messaging too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5880449)

Seems like someone is missing something rather obvious. Tax email and then our IM will get blasted by spammers. The circle is endless. Where do you draw the line? Taxing doesn't solve a damn thing. Grab a clue.

interesting. (2, Insightful)

Neck_of_the_Woods (305788) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880455)

Nice..... .01 cent, it is really nothing.

.02 cent, come on it is really nothing...and you already pay next to nothing.

.04 cent, we can really do some damage to those evil spamers.

.10 cent, you really need us to keep this going. Without it, the internet will turn back into child pron and a bunch of terror posts.

.32 cent, you don't use snail mail anymore and we invented the internet, and police it. It is only fair you buck up and pay for what you are using.

.50 cent, we can use the "internet tax" to pay for [insert pork belly here].

--> Extream, yes. Untrue, well do you really want to find out? Lets tax something you pay to use already. Lets tax something to solve a problem that should be addressed with the right kind of legislation. Lets tax, then pay the very people that are spamming us to find the other people that spam us. Better yet, lets give them special powers.... I really love the idea that a "tax" will fix the problem. It would be a tax on just the US to pay to controll something that is world wide and rest of the world and 99% of the US does not even want controlled.

"I have an idea, lets tax e-mail!!! - Bring it up now, then 3 years down the road make it happen. They will scream, piss, and moan now but when we bring it up again in 3 years it will not seem so extream because they heard it once already. Yea, don't forget to say it will kill spam, child porn, and Ben Ladin...."

worst. idea. ever. (2, Funny)

esanbock (513790) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880457)

(read in simpsosn comic book guy voice)

We do not need any more taxes! (1)

raal (14531) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880458)

I believe that this is a really BAD idea. We already have taxes for about everything imaginable.

We do NOT need a tax on sending email. The ISP already has costs for bandwidth and as much as I hate to say spammers have to be buying bandwidth from someone.

Yes there are bandwidth costs on the recieving side as well but there are costs for both sides of phone calls as well and I still get a lot of telemarketers.

If they want to pass a useful law make it so folks have to have a VALID return address so I can filter the crap out!

Lets not create more taxes but simplify the ones we have. How many people actually do their own taxes? We need to simplify the tax code. Eliminate all the stupid add on taxes for services.

Support a Flat income tax or eliminate it with a simple sales tax.

You have got to be kidding me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5880460)

#1 Who the hell is going to regulate that?
#2 What is stopping me from setting up my own server.
#3 Are they going to start FILTERING and WATCHING each email now so they can count them?

Tax on email? WHAT KIND OF CRACK ARE YOU SMOKING?!

The Only way to stop spam.... (1)

dontod (571749) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880461)

...is DDOS attacks against any open spam relay. Sure the poor sucker who has mis-configured their server won't be able to use it but with a gagillion pieces of spam flowing through it, it's not much use now.

Seriously, if it was organised well (and the legal ramifications sorted) it could work. DDOS a server until it has been configured properly.

Don
-----
OoOoh he card read good!

Hrmmm won't work (1)

matth (22742) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880462)

This won't work. It works for the US Postal Service because there is a central location that everything goes through. This would be like the government trying to tax me when I carry an apple pie over to Aunt Jan who lives three doors down. I'm using my own private "network" (lawn) to get there.

Taxes have one prupose (2, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880464)

The only successful purpose of a tax is to generate revenue for governments. They do this quite effectively. When used to discourage certain types of behaviour, they simply aren't very effective. People will either pay the taxes, or find a way to avoid them.

Has anyone ever been put off drining, smoking or driving because of taxes? How about earning money? Owning a large house? Selling goods and services? All of these things are taxed. They have very little effect in reducing demand.

Makes no sense (1)

samael (12612) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880470)

Nearly all spam happens because people send email through unsecured servers. If the servers were secutre enough to be able to identify (and thus tax) the sender, there wouldn't be a spam problem in the first place!

The catch. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5880474)

In order to tax all your emails, they must first know about all your emails. And if you hide your emails, that'll be illegal because it's avoiding paying your taxes.

Big brother is watching you closely...

This is the stupidest Idea *EVER* (1)

His name cannot be s (16831) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880476)

Taxing email would stifle mailing lists massively.

I gave up on Usenet years ago, and use mailing lists as a method of communication that can be somewhat trusted to be spam free.

What possible benefit can no-money groups who use mailing lists get from this?

The money that people pay for their connection already goes to paying for bandwidth. Getting the greasy government fingers into it to further tax it, would be dumb dumb dumb. Who ever heard of taxes going away?... I can just imagine it, 50 years from now, I'll be telling my grandkids: "well sonny, I remember when it cost just a penny to send an e-mail... now it is 57 cents... *sigh*"...."Sure grampa... whatever"

Oh, and good fucking luck getting the entire world to collect the tax.

Gov't don't do tech (1)

pifalo (640137) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880485)

The government should keep to what it's best at: protecting the commonwealth from harm.

Spam is an annoyance, but not a threat to my liberty! I'd rather pay a company $20 per year for their sotfware filtering service than pay the gov't even $5 a year for "preventing" spam. At least I know that the company will do more to protect me, because if they don't I'll go to their competitors! It's one of the few good qualities of capitalism.

What if the gov't does a bad job at preventing spam? Ever try to get money from the gov't when your car wheel gets mashed in an unfixed pothole?

Less gov't is good - let's them focus on the truly important aspects of individual freedoms. I'd rather the gov't tax my bread to prevent hunger than tax my e-mail to prevent spam.

-1 Troll (0)

26199 (577806) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880498)

Can anyone really take this seriously? It doesn't even begin to offer a solution to spam. Sounds like a troll to me.

Of course, if there was some magic way to implement such a tax, it might work. Odd how most of the solutions to spam rely on an impossible assumption becoming true...

Another way to tax spammers (2, Interesting)

xigxag (167441) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880501)

In the body of the spam there is usually contact information: a website or a toll-free phone number. Imagine that a large organized group of volunteers were to set up spam traps and identify the most egregious culprits. Then, if they would en masse simultaneously and repeatedly go to the spammer's web page or call the toll-free number, the spammer would be hit by a huge bill from his ISP or telco, and would also suffer a DoS preventing "legitimate" customers from signing up.

Snail Mail (1)

Col. Klink (retired) (11632) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880502)

How is a penny a post going to eliminate spam. It would still be more than 2000% more expensive to send traditional junk mail, and I still get lots of that too.

Not to mention the fact that all of the mailing lists I subscribe to would shut down.

Wait - how the hell do they know who I am? (4, Insightful)

Ieshan (409693) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880503)

Isn't part of the point of email that it might want to be anonymous? Do you really want the government having records of each and every email you've sent so that they can collect taxes on it?

Old thinking that is going out of style (1)

banzai51 (140396) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880512)

First, I don't think this would ever work. Second, sending email is not free, I have to pay my ISP for the privilge. Third, where the hell does the government get off tring to con me into thinking they are providing me with some sort of service in this money grab? Pay per use is going the way of the dinosaur in communications. Look at MCI and Sprint offering one price per month for all calls. Pay one price and use it as much as you like. That is the way of the internet and the telephone/cellular business is moving to this model. The government has been salivating at the prospect of taxing the internet, especally email, for years now.

Right...and wrong. (1)

WoodSmoke (631754) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880516)

IMHO, the only way a tax could work is if they provided an alternative, similar, value-added service to replace email that would have the tax. I think there are already companies who provide spam filtering for a charge, which would accomplish the same thing without introducing Big Brother fears. This is a waste of MY tax dollars and the time of MY employees, the US Government.

Just my 2 cents worth

WoodSmoke

First the Toe... (1)

Esion Modnar (632431) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880519)

...then the whole foot, leg, and body of the TAX monster. Don't give it the chance.

Bet you don't know that the Federal income tax was once only supposed to affect the "wealthy." And was "voluntary."

Nuh-uh. Spam is bad, but it aint THAT bad.

Author doesn't know what he's talking about (4, Interesting)

arvindn (542080) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880521)

What he proposes is the best way to kill e-mail. I can think of several problems right away:

  • The spam problem currently exists mainly because we can't track down spammers. Until you solve that, implementing an e-mail tax will never get off the ground.
  • What about open relays? Of course its stupid and irresponsible to have one, but now you could now find yourself being taxed thousands of dollars for doing so?
  • What about an worm/trojan sending out bulk e-mail? Punishing the victim is a great idea.
  • How do you deal with mail across national boundaries? I wonder if he has thought about the world about the USA.
  • What about mailing lists? How do you propose to tax them? They take up more bandwidth than a single e-mail but less than n individual emails. Defining all these would lead to such a messy overregulated internet that it will lose all trace of what it was like formerly.
This guy has no idea of the technicalities of the internet.

Look at this statement:

The simplest way to regulate spam is through a tax. This requires smashing some myths. A decade ago, Americans were gulled by politicians of both parties into believing that taxing the internet exceeded the government's capability. When that proved to be manifestly untrue, they were told that a tax would be an affront to some mythic libertarian "spirit of the internet".
Mythic, eh? Has this troll heard of usenet? This is just an anti-libertarian rant/flame from some disgruntled control freak. Ignore it and move on.

Yes, let's add _more_ laws we won't enforce (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5880523)

Fraud, like tax evasion, is a crime. But this doesn't stop all those Nigerian Bank scammers now does it? Our problem is not law, but rather the will to enforce it. As if an email tax will somehow make these criminals turn clean, and the ones who don't easier to find. Now I get to pay twice.

I won't help (1)

RosCabezas (610805) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880527)

I have a smll company that sells email services. I probably wouldn't be able to cope with the intrincacies of a world wide payment system and afford the changes.
Anyway, it would be quite difficult to work that kind of system. Probably only way would be like passport.
I don't like it.

email taxation (1)

rodney dill (631059) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880531)

This might be a workable idea until the the geniuses in Washington get their hands on it and provide their own "value-adds". Remember this is the same group the provides for private citizens to send snail mail at 37 cents a pop, but bulk mailers get a reduced rate.

Just remember which of these two groups will have lobbyists representing them when these decisions are made.

Other than the evil of the bureaucrats altering the idea beyond recognition (FUBAR again), the idea has its merits.

Might be a Good Idea (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880538)

Since the mass migration off SMTP would finally allow for the overhaul of the protocol that is what is really needed to eliminate spam. Perhaps instead of attempting to implement an unenforcable tax on a single internet protocol, we should carve into stone the elimination of encription export regulations. Once we can write identity authenticating SMTP clients and servers without fear that we'll be taken away the minute we post the code on the internet, I'm sure that will begin to happen.

All the E-Mail clients I've run across makes you jump through hoops to enable encryption because of those regulations, and the atmosphere of paranoia surrounding them is still very much there.

How are they gonna bill this? (1)

sabri (584428) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880539)

I really wonder how they think this is going to be implemented technically. First, you need to know who is sending which email to which recipient. Then you need to know who to bill for it.

So far the easy part. Next you need to know for sure that it's not relayed through an open relay, open proxy or otherwise compromised system.

Next, I will promise you e-mail-tourism. If the US implements this and Europe doesn't, I can tell you where most of the mail is coming from in ten years (Asia? ;-).

Is the IETF already working on SMTP-NEXTGEN? Nah, I think this is just a waste of time.

We already pay internet tax. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5880543)

The bandwidth, and the access rights I pay to my ISP are already taxed, last time I checked here in the UK thats 17.5%.

Me thinks FT.com are hoping for a slashdot effect to drive up advertising revenue, god knows they need it.

What we need is a new protocol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5880545)

SMTP has come a long way, but we need a revamp. We need a way to officially and legally blacklist some sites or IP addresses. We need a way to authenticate servers and an automated clearing house for spam complaints. Enough of sending e-mail to ISPs and never getting an answer.

Also, we can pretty much limit the number of messages any server receives from any one IP address that's not associated to a legitimate business. Hotmail just did something like this. I don't see why RoadRunner or Earthlink can't do the same.

It's also time to undefine "open relay" for commercial e-mail software. It should require at least three different and obscure configuration parameters, something a newbie wouldn't be able to set by mistake.

another poorly thought out proposal (3, Insightful)

Thorizdin (456032) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880549)

I guess with presidential politics already starting it was inevitable that people would start putting forward ideas to combat spam in the political arena. My first question on this is why would I pay the government anything to send email, since neither state nor federal agencies have anything to do how I process email. They don't provide bandwidth, servers, or even oversight. The author's suggestion that this money could be used to "The proceeds could go to maintain and expand bandwidth." is patently ridiculous since the government doesn't provide bandwidth, private companies do. The next issue is just how would you even implment this? Most of the spam that our servers process comes from places that US can't tax, and I imagine that if this was implemented, then the remaining spam would quickly move to places that aren't known for cooperating with US courts & extradition. There is a reason that Sharman Networks (the folks who own Kazaa) are incorporated [com.com]
in Vanuatu [vanuatu.net.vu]
The only thing that we can do that isn't a band aid or a un-enforcable law is look at how to rewrite the SMTP [ietf.org] protocol, right now it is far too easy (by design) to send email from anywhere to anywhere without any accountability. We need a system that allows for servers to positively identified (something similar to a secure cert, not that I want to hand more money to Verisign but...) Then its up to the individual admin to decide what to do with email from a un-certified server; accept it, rate limit it, tag it, or deny it. Now no one _wants_ to rewrite all of the MTA's in the world, but at least this gives a way for non-compliant servers to get mail processed until everyone has gotten their's updated.

Go for it! (1)

CrazyJim0 (324487) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880552)

Then when I have to pay $10,000 a year in emails, but I'm only sending out newsgroup emailings, party invitations, and PSA forwarding... And I have 0$ because no one wants to give a CMU grad an interview. Then I can say,"Hey brother, can you spare a dime."

Er, obvious flaws (4, Insightful)

Kraegar (565221) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880562)

tax could be made progressive by exempting, say, those who sent fewer than 5,000 letters a year.
Ok, so bigger_penis_now@hotmail.com sends 4999 emails. bigger_peenis_now@hotmail.com sends 4999 emails. get_big_penis_now@spammer.com sends 4999 emails. On the other hand, valid list-serves get billed because they need a consistent address to do their business. Spammers are (obviously) well known for forging the headers on their emails, the from info, etc. So who do you bill? how do you track it down? who are you paying to track it down?

Okay-- so what is "email", then? (4, Interesting)

adjuster (61096) | more than 11 years ago | (#5880571)

My largest fear from this type of proposal comes from the potentially vague definition of "email" that might be created. What is email, exactly? Are we talking about only SMTP? If so, what about "Instant Messenger" spam? Maybe we should classify instant message protocols as email, too. What about USENET? Should we classify NNTP as email, as well? What about SMS spam? What about the "next big thing", whatever it turns out to be? Perhaps we should have taxes based on IP packets sen1! That would be about as sane... yeesh!

Think I'm making this up? I had one customer who was ranting to me about their LAN-based "email" not working (a year ago, mind you). Upon closer inspection, I found their "email system" to be "WinPopUp" running on each PC that they'd use to send pop-up messages to each other. That was their "email". Think of your own relationships-- you know at least one person who calls instant messenger systems "email" (much like those novices who confuse RAM and hard disk space and call them both "memory").

The Internet works because we all agree to abide by the same standards, and agree that ICANN is the authority for naming / numbering. This spirit of cooperation works because we all benefit-- not because some government legislated it so. If some idiotic "email tax" does get legislated in the U.S., we run the risk of making ourselves into "second class" Internet citizens, and creating the "United States Internet" and the "rest of the world's Internet".

Spam is a social problem being "enabled" by technology. It cannot be legislated away, because it breeds on human nature: the desire to have large returns from little work. Real answers are things like ubiquitous public-key infrastructure, signed email, reputation "credits" (or "karma", if you like), and accountability. The decentralized "web of trust" model of PGP combined with the "reputation credit" model of eBay is what I'm talking about. Imagine an email client program that categorizes incoming mail based on the "cred" accumulated by the sender in a decentralized, non-government controlled "reputation tracking" system.

Taxes and laws aren't going to solve the problem. They're going to stifle the real power the Internet has-- bringing people together and enhancing communication. Worse-- they risk making an "island" of any country who would enact such idiotic legislation.

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