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E-mail Tax As Way Of Preventing 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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E-mail Tax As Way Of Preventing Spam

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  • Is taxation best? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blueidoru ( 655798 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:07AM (#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.)
    • by banzai51 ( 140396 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:33AM (#5880530) Journal
      It wouldn't. But the government could finally cash in on the internet. Its all in our best interests of course.
      • by jezor ( 51922 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @11:28AM (#5882160) Homepage
        banzai51 wrote:

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

        Um, which government? As much as I will argue against the notion of the Internet as a lawless environment, the bottom line is that it is without borders, and spammers will easily be able to find an offshore haven from which to send their sexual enhancement ads. To assume that a US or UK law charging a per e-mail tax will somehow eliminate spam is unrealistic and unworkable. It will also significantly reduce the incentive to use e-mail for appropriate means, such as operating an e-mail discussion list.
        Professor Jonathan I. Ezor
        Director, Touro Institute for Business, Law and Technology [mailto]
    • Re:Is taxation best? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jaysyn ( 203771 )
      Why does the U.S. government insist on insinuating itself into every aspect of my life? I really don't want to pay $.01 for every email I send to get rid the 4-10 pieces of I get a day (and subseqently get rid of before I look at them with MailWasher).

      The fee will start out small at a penny, but the cost *will* go up. Just like every other service ever thought up by the U.S. government. Eventually will be paying per MB for email like we do with snail mail.

      Well I guess if this happens, people will start
    • by Anonymous Coward
      This is how some of the greatest blunders in the world get created, when people instinctively react without thoroughly analyzing a problem and the pros and cons of each potential solution.

      What in the world does the government have to do with bits being sent from one computer to another, and why should the government automatically get money for it without my consent? What if the machines were all within an intranet wholly owned by me? Of course the risk of spam would be much less, but try to see the point b
  • Historical First. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chris_Stankowitz ( 612232 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:07AM (#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.
  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:07AM (#5880329) Journal
    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.

    • by jjo ( 62046 )
      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 authoritie
      • by Jens ( 85040 ) <jens-slashdot@sp ... e ['il.' in gap]> on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:26AM (#5880490) Homepage
        "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.

        • Manifestly untrue. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by rjh ( 40933 ) <> on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:59AM (#5880730)
          Spammers just can't afford to sign their mails - with any signature.

          Spam is one email being sent out a million times. Identical copies of messages flood a network. (If you don't believe this, I'll show you a spam I recently received which had over a thousand entries in the CC field. The spammer accidentally CCd instead of BCCd.)

          If you're sending a million copies of one message, you only need one PGP signature. It becomes a fixed one-time fee per different email you send out, not a per-message CPU tax.
    • by terraformer ( 617565 ) <> on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:15AM (#5880388) Journal
      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.
  • by nother_nix_hacker ( 596961 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:09AM (#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!
    • 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.
    • Re:I'd go for it (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ReelOddeeo ( 115880 )
      Taxing e-mail is the wrong way to go.

      Instead tax unsolicited commercial e-mail. Write a clear definition in the law of exactly what UCE is. Be sure to include any commercial e-mail sent to addresses on a list that was purchased, rented or leased.

      Why bother everyone else with the administrative overhead of keeping track of how many e-mails they send? Just bother the spammers.

      Require all spam to include a special message header with their spam-license in it. E-mail software or end users could che
      • by uberdave ( 526529 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @10:43AM (#5881683) Homepage
        I'm going to guess that you're an american. Americans tend to have this blind spot that extends from their borders and works outward. Most of them tend to ignore (and be ignorant of)the rest of the world. For example, in the movie Outbreak a plague is sweeping across the States. There is a scene where they extrapolate the spread of the disease. Curiously, it never crosses the borders.

        The idea of taxing email, or having a government sender verification site, contains the assumtion that the internet is somehow contained in a single country. When a Pakistani is sending an email to a Turk, who's government website is the Turk supposed to check? What is the tax to be paid in? What happens with a country that decides that it will not comply, how do you check the key?

        Spam is an international problem. It cannot be fixed by a national solution. Legislation will not work, because there will always be countries which do not comply. If there is going to be a solution to spam, it is going to be a technical solution, not a legal one.
  • 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?

  • 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.
    • 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"?
      • by The AtomicPunk ( 450829 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @09:18AM (#5880841)
        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.

        That's okay, the democrats say only the rich pay income taxes or benefit from tax cuts, so you're OBVIOUSLY rich... =)

        I assume you've written your representative and asked them to support HR25, the Fair Tax Bill of 2003?

        And that you vote Libertarian? :)

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

    • by jackb_guppy ( 204733 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:28AM (#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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IrregularApocalypse ( 654003 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:10AM (#5880344) Journal
    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 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by danny ( 2658 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:10AM (#5880350) Homepage
    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!


  • by restive ( 542491 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:11AM (#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.
    • Taxation (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Orne ( 144925 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @10:32AM (#5881589) Homepage
      So you know, the original income tax [] was first instituted to help fund the civil war, at 1/2% tax. It was later repealed, as it was found unconstitutional in the courts for the government to tax income.

      But congress tried again in 1913 [], and was a 1% tax on the top 1% wage earners (in 1913, those that earned $3k to $20k per year).

      Fast forward to today, and take a look at how far we've let the government tax our earnings... today, the top 1% wage earners pay 38.6% [] of their salary in taxes, accounting for ~ 29% of the total (top 5% wage earners paid 50% [] of all taxes in 1999)

      Now we have people saying, "I don't mind paying $0.01 for my emails"... What restraint has the government ever shown that next year it'll be $0.02, then $0.05 (who'll miss a nickle?), a dime... And where the hell will all this money go? into improving the internet infrastructure? Nooo, that's a private business. The money and accountability will disappear, probably into Medicare, Social Security, and all the other social programs that government isn't supposed to be in.

      Government control is not a road we want to walk down folks. Yes, control of communications through taxation. I can't understand why the crowd complains when little things are being taken away, and the same people just turn around and hand the big ones over willingly.
  • Mailing lists? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Matt_Bennett ( 79107 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:11AM (#5880354) Homepage Journal
    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)?
  • I run 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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GigsVT ( 208848 ) * on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:12AM (#5880359) Journal
    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? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Surak ( 18578 ) * <[surak] [at] []> on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:12AM (#5880365) Homepage Journal
    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!

    • Re:Enforceable? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by macrom ( 537566 )
      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.

      Not really. If you RTFA, then you'd know that the tax is only $.01/per e-mail sent. So that few hundred a day would cost your company a little over $1000 a year. If your business can't afford that, I'd say you're in some other hot water.

      Not that I agree with all of this, I'm just trying to refute the statement that your company would be hit hard by the tax.
  • by Ethelred Unraed ( 32954 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:13AM (#5880366) Journal

    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.



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

  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:14AM (#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.
  • Proof-of-work (Score:3, Interesting)

    by squarooticus ( 5092 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:15AM (#5880390) Homepage
    Why not use HashCash [] 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.
  • Mailing list, anyone ? Free Software (technically as in beer) mailing lists, anyone ?
  • 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 payin
    • 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.
  • by selderrr ( 523988 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:16AM (#5880405) Journal
    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 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xigxag ( 167441 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:16AM (#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.
  • 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!
  • No Internet Tax (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oddRaisin ( 139439 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:18AM (#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.
  • The problem with any anti-spam proposals is not making laws, it's enforcing them. The EU can pass all the anti-spam legislation [] 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
  • by DLG ( 14172 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:18AM (#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.

    • It means that people will actually stop sending smaller email

      More likely, they'd start sending really big Instant Messages.

      And then, AIM's programmers would puff up it's features with things like "Buffer until recipient is online", to emulate the feel of old-fashioned email as much as possible, without actually meeting the legal definition and becoming taxable.
  • 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

  • by seldolivaw ( 179178 ) * <me.seldo@com> on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:18AM (#5880422) Homepage
    ...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.

  • Altenate suggestion (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Max Romantschuk ( 132276 ) <> on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:19AM (#5880426) Homepage
    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?
  • by Arethan ( 223197 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:21AM (#5880436) Journal
    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.
  • 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 th

  • interesting. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Neck_of_the_Woods ( 305788 ) * on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:23AM (#5880455) Journal
    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...."

  • (read in simpsosn comic book guy voice)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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
  • by xigxag ( 167441 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:28AM (#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.

  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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
  • ...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.

  • by arvindn ( 542080 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:32AM (#5880521) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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 cli

  • by Thorizdin ( 456032 ) <> on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:36AM (#5880549) Homepage
    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 []
    in Vanuatu []
    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 [] 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.
  • 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 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kraegar ( 565221 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:37AM (#5880562)
    tax could be made progressive by exempting, say, those who sent fewer than 5,000 letters a year.
    Ok, so sends 4999 emails. sends 4999 emails. 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?
  • by adjuster ( 61096 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:39AM (#5880571) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • How retarded (Score:5, Interesting)

    by A non moose cow ( 610391 ) <> on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:42AM (#5880594) Journal
    Every problem that we have that revolves around a man-made technology is fixable with a man made technology. We don't need taxes, we need to fix the core of the email system.

    "The simplest way to regulate spam is through a tax."

    Perhaps this is true, but the simplest way is almost NEVER the best way. How are you going to define the differences between email and every other electronic message passing? Will the tax suddenly apply to IM's? then web pages? then internet phone calls? What happens 20 years from now when the technology is different? Will the tax stop? Hell no! Most likeley there will be a new tax code buried in every little packet so that the government can get even more money for nothing.

    Why should the burden of the "fix" for this problem be shouldered mostly by the people that it is trying to "protect"? I don't want to pay my government for the privelage of doing something that was previously free. That does not solve anything! I want the people sending spam to pay ME!

    This tax might sound innocent on its surface, but it only takes one little thing like this to make it seem acceptable to throw a tax on every digital transaction.

    To all you dopes that think this is a good idea, think about the big picture. This point in time is not static. Technology is changing constantly. Spam will die when the time is right. For now we can just deal with it with the methods available to us. Do not let the government see the Internet as the latest frontier where they can profit by "saving us from ourselves".
  • by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:50AM (#5880656)
    I subscribe to various lists that cover computer security. Some of them are well-established, and (should there be a rule for certain email uses to be exempt) would have little trouble attaining an exemption from the tax. However, other lists that spring up from time to time to address new technologies would have a much harder time, and would be quashed entirely by such a tax. When I think about lists that have come up with regards to wi-fi security, VPNs, and other such things, I can only imagine what lists would not come to be, or would only come to be with the support of wealthy vendors to bankroll them.
  • Enough about SPAM (Score:3, Insightful)

    by joshv ( 13017 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:51AM (#5880661)
    The constant media fascination with SPAM is getting to be more annoying than spam itself. I can't read an online journal or newspaper without seeing at least one article about spam. These articles are a new form of spam unto themselves.


  • by ianscot ( 591483 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:52AM (#5880673)

    Looks like the spammers are winning their guerrilla war, then. We're suggesting responding with disproportionate force in a way that puts the main burden on noncombatants -- always the sign you're about to lose something like this.

    I mean, we'd be throwing a huge burden on a system that basically works in order to go after abusers who've already shown they're not going to give up in an arms race for their survival. Good thinking. It's not like spammers would try to, say, abuse other people's servers to send messages without an attributable (read: taxable) source on them. No way. They wouldn't think of that one, no precedent for that... Or were we creating a big new policing division of the U.S. Postal service to defend e-mail servers?

    Seriously, how wrongheaded is this? Extremely. It'd be impossible to administer and track without seriously degrading the flexibility and increasing the cost of e-mail systems we have right now on the cheap. How many times has your address changed? Who's tracking your tax bill across all those? Etc. etc. etc. Classic blindered thinking -- a pet idea we should pat on the head and move past. (Exactly how does this tax get collected across borders? Person hasn't addressed the international nature of the internet. Person suggests a "progressive" version, flying in the face of 20-some years of U.S. taxation trends. And so on.)

  • by Sherloqq ( 577391 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:56AM (#5880704)
    IMHO, a better idea, compared to imposing taxes on email, would be to create a new infrastructure for exchanging of "email", where things like forged headers, open relays and spammers would be a thing of the past. What I'm thinking of is essentially a new TCP port, a new service, a new daemon, designed from scratch, one that takes all the concerns of today, does some forecasting for the future, and makes us forget about spam for a few years. Something that uses certificates from a few select (trusted) authorities to verify connecting server's identity (kinda like caller-ID, you only answer the calls you want to allow) -- SSL is an accepted way for us to verify the identity of the website we're trying to connect to, why couldn't it be a way to verify the identity of the server trying to connect to us? And throw in some encryption into the mix so that the traffic can't be \easily\ snooped. Rogue servers would quickly get their act together if they started to have mail queue up because their certs were expired / bad etc.

    I think that trying to get an old medium to conform to today's demands might be more expensive (taxes or no taxes) than to simply coming up with a new one. A well-designed (and I don't claim to have one) solution would take less time to implement and I think would be easier to manage.

    I understand that SSL, encryption and such would not be music to Dept. of Homeland Security's ears, that they would much rather leave the burden and cost on us, but there would be some upsides from their vantage point, too -- there would be less traffic for them to sift through (though it would be more intensive to process it), and I'm sure they'd get their back-door tentacles into the architecture somehow.

    I won't even get into arguments like "how do you tax someone who's out of your jurisdiction", or "how do you get thousands of sysadmins try to add SSL to sendmail/qmail/pick-your-MTA without breaking backward-compatibility" etc. Just like gopher and ftp have/are becoming things of the past, I think SMTP should too.
  • Viruses more harsh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sithgunner ( 529690 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @09:10AM (#5880793)
    Now that viruses will make people unlucky to get caught with them pay alot =(

    Also, that this tax thing may trigger to make more viruses to flood out mails from innocent computers.

    I was once for the idea, but after a thought, no.
  • by analog_line ( 465182 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @09:14AM (#5880816)
    Until there is a cost to sending e-mails, or there is widespread refusal to accept untrusted e-mail, the spam problem will never go away. If you blacklist almost everything, what you actually have is a whitelist. Just depends on which color you focus on. If you refuse to whitelist, the only way to stop spam is to create a completely unavoidable cost to sending e-mails. You can't make anything "progressive" because then spammers will create thousands of free garbage accounts on hotmail, etc, and automate them. Whether it's a tax or a universal fee charged by ISPs, it has to be on a per e-mail basis, and it has to be as universal as gravity. Otherwise, the spammers will find every loophole they can and abuse the hell out of them, and nothing will stop them.
  • Tax? No thanks. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mr3038 ( 121693 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @09:22AM (#5880879)
    The idea to tax all emails is terrible. First, only those who abuse the system (spammers) should suffer from any change we take and second, those of us with legimate needs (opt-in mailing list admins) must not be charged if it's possible to make it work without money (like it's working today). Trust me, I receive many mails from various mailing lists and I don't want to pay for those just so that the admin can cost the taxes to distribute the list contents.

    In addition, spammers would try to workaround those taxes, and possibly succeed, just like they forge the headers of spam they send today. As a result, legimate users would pay the tax and spammers would send the spam for free. Adding some heavy-weight bureaucracy to the problem (tax system) isn't the solution.

    The idea in A Bounty on Spammers [] article seems like a one possible way to go. It's not perfect because it doesn't get rid of the wasted bandwidth immediatly as it doesn't outlaw spam, only spam that isn't clearly marked as spam. I'm not entirely sure about the $10000 bounty the article suggests. I think it should be proportional to the number of spams sent -- say, $5 per spam sent. And make that $50 per spam sent if the spammer tried to forge headers! It would really hurt to send one million spams with forged headers unlike today.

    Once we have [ADV:] in every spam we get, we can modify SMTP servers to return "555 Advertisements not allowed" if one tries to send a spam and save some wasted bandwidth.

    Alternatively, once we get micropayments work, we can allow spammers to send spam that transfers some money to the reader once he reads the spam. Because sending spam doesn't cost anything, the spammer could choose to pay some small amount of money to get the receiver to read the spam.

    You have 25 paid advertisements in your inbox. If you read all of those, you'll reveice $2 to your MicroPayments Account. What do you want to do? [Read advertisements] [Remove advertisements]"
    Perhaps some poor guy could make a living reading spam?
  • Good Idea in theory. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @09:31AM (#5880943)
    But in real life it is not going to work.

    1. Whos job will it be to monitor all the e-mail traffic. The sender or the reciever.

    2. Spammers use Open Relays or fine vulnerabilities in the persons system (thus able to send 1 message to a hundred users) or sending data threw a non smtp protocol. Thus avoiding the tax or minimizing it $.01 for a million messages. and the poor victim besides getting blacklisted has to pay $10,000 in taxes.

    3. When being sent threw a foreign site. How do you collect taxes from them?

    4. How do you enforce this?

    It seems like a good idea in the perfect world but it is not. All this will end up doing is putting extra expense on the honest business man and individual. But most spammers are far from honest and would end up doing what they have been doing.
  • Unenforcable. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The Fanta Menace ( 607612 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @09:32AM (#5880951) Homepage

    I run my own server. Are they going to snoop my traffic to see how much email I send?

    If so, I'll set up VPNs to the servers of people who I email regularly. Are they then going to demand to check my logs to ensure I'm paying the correct amount?

    It's clear that economics morons who write crap like this have never read an SMTP RFC in their lifetime.

  • by ausoleil ( 322752 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @09:48AM (#5881101) Homepage
    And the price of printing and postage has not deterred firms and organizations from sending me several pieces of unsolicited pieces of snail-mail every day. How would "stamped" e-mail be any different? My take is that it wouldn't.

    In fact, it might make it worse, as e-stamps would legitimize sending un-solicited commercial e-mail. You can hear the spammers now: "Hey, I paid my one cent, I can send anything I want!"

    And, at the same, time *I* have to pay to send my non-commercial e-mail, paying into a government which really does nothing to provide internet connectivty. So, essentially, you are asking me to pay a price to supposedly prevent something to an entity which would provide me nothing in return. After all, would the ISP's not charge for an account if there were an e-mail tax? Heck no. If anything they would raise their prices because of the additional burden of accounting, accounting software, tax analysts and the like. That has me paying a DOUBLE premium for something I am not doing? Forget that!

  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @09:54AM (#5881179) Homepage Journal
    Lots of good points have already been made, so I won't rehash them (and I'm only looking at +5 already!) but here's a good article on why micropayments will never, ever, ever, ever [emphasis mine] work [] by Clay Shirky.
  • The end of email (Score:3, Informative)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @10:13AM (#5881373) Homepage Journal
    You already pay taxes on your internet service, your pc and utilities..

    Adding an additional tax directly onto each email would pretty much kill the system.

    People would cut back on its use to the bare minimum, as people do with paper mail now.

    The US postal service keeps claiming they are loosing money, its not really that. The volume of internet mail is due to the near zero cost of each email, nothing more. If the cost was raised, the volume would go down. Pretty simple concept.

    But I agree SOMETHING has to be done, as I'm sick and tired of paying to receive this crap every day. That includes popups too.. not just

    And don't tell me I'm not paying.. I pay for my power bill, my ISP, my bandwidth, my drive space, my time..
  • by sfbanutt ( 116292 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @12:11PM (#5882558) Homepage
    How would something like this be collected? Monitoring port 25? All something like this would do is drive traffic off of public protocols and onto proprietary ones. Instead of paying an email tax, business will set up proprietary links (exchange server, anybody?) Sure, it kinda sounds like a good idea, but you've got to watch out for those unintended consequences.
  • How could this work? (Score:3, Informative)

    by 42forty-two42 ( 532340 ) <`bdonlan' `at' `'> on Monday May 05, 2003 @12:32PM (#5882742) Homepage Journal
    How does the government expect to track *all* email? The support isn't in the underlying protocols, and nobody wants to throw away 20+ years of developing email servers just because the government wants a cut. And what about local email? I get emails from my crond daily - would those get taxed, too?
  • wrong answer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by josepha48 ( 13953 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @01:33PM (#5883340) Journal
    This is the wrong answer.

    Much of the spam that I get is from overseas asian countries. How do you collect tax from them?

    Also what happens to people and companies that do telecommuting where many of their employess communicate using email? I have had conversations with some of the people that I work with through email and have exchanged 100+ email in a day on the same subject. While I would prefer them to come into the office, I know they like being able to work at home.

    Taxing email is NOT the solution. People will end up paying tax on email they did not send.

    The solution is to change the email protocol to include something like PGP signatures. Something that cannot be faked (real tought). Then I go to my ISP and let them know what sigs to allow when I set up my account. Then they ONLY allow email into their system that matches the signatures.

    Well I admit spam is pretty bad and I have given up my inbox to the spamers. My new approach of using email filters is to move mail from people I know to another folder has worked much better. Now I just need mozilla to recognize case insensitive email addresses. 'Sender' 'is in my address book ' move to 'new folder' works really well. Then a quick glance at my inbox to see if there is anything from anyone I know. Then select all / delete....

  • by evil_pb ( 622775 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @02:53PM (#5884131)
    Open relay problems aside, why not just limit the amount of mail a server will allow to be sent in a set period of time by a user?

    Imagine what would happen if the most popular mail server applications (i.e. Sendmail, Postfix, Exchange, Groupwise, etc) simply all agreed to implement a throttle control into their code. Allow it to be configurable, where something like an email list can send as much as it needs (trusted accounts), but untrusted accounts are limited to maybe 100 or 200 emails an hour. Spammers work by sending emails in the thousands or millions, as fast as they can. Ignore the from: header since it can be forged ... track them by IP address. It would be very hard for someone to come up with a new IP address every couple hundred emails and re-establish the connection to the server from a time perspective.

    I think eventually the spammers would have nowhere else to go; if a version of sendmail came out with this feature, I would install it in a second, even though I'm not an open relay. Legitimate users cause these problems too.

    I would even go so far as to say the ISP's need to take some action here, if it's really such a problem for their precious bandwidth. Monitor the SMTP volume coming through their network - set limits. Test their client systems periodically for open relays, block or severely limit the ones who do not comply after giving them time to work it out. A lot of admins, sadly, simply do not know better, or are very lazy until prodded. Tell them their server won't pass traffic until the relay is closed and watch them comply real quick. If it's a signed user agreement, they can't do much about it.

    I require this of my Co-Lo customers; if they have a server, I *require* them to keep it patched, email relays closed, etc. I do check from time to time, and it's in their agreement with me that I reserve the right to disable any access to their server I deem necessary to preserve the integrity of the rest of the network. Not a single one has complained about that, and in fact all were pleasantly surprised to see a provider take such a pro-active approach to service integrity. Is it more overhead for me? I have found that it may seem like it initially, however by enforcing this it is actually less work than dealing with constant cleanup. Think about it. It's a shift in the paradigm of "customer can do no wrong", to "customer sometimes just needs to be shown the way".

    Just adding a throttle control to email servers... That's all it would take. Just getting providers to tell their customers to stop causing the problems, is all it would take. Doesn't this seem like a hell of a lot less work than taxing email or any of the other mess of solutions presented?

  • Can You Tax? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by suwain_2 ( 260792 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @03:39PM (#5884637) Journal
    Most of the Internet is 'private.' That is, most of the networks my data travels through are owned by companies, not the government. In connecting to Slashdot, my data goes through Adelphia, MetroFiber Networks, AboveNet, and then to C&W (where Slashdot is housed).

    To better illustrate... Take the cliche of "the information superhighway." Except it's not a state-, or even federal-, owned highway. It's a bunch of companies that built big roads on their private property. The companies owning the roads sometimes 'peer' with other companies' roads, allowing people to seamlessly move from one road to another. You can also buy a 'driveway,' or even a private street, from a company. (Representing your Internet connection.) The government doesn't own any of the roads.

    Now the government wants to put tollbooths on the roads, and collect a toll from anyone driving on the roads. I really can't see how this idea can possibly be legal.

    In addition, I've always felt that it's difficult to define the Internet. It's not too hard to say that when I'm posting to Slashdot, I'm using the Internet. But suppose I use an internal mail server to send mail to someone else using the same mailserver. It never leaves the internal LAN. Am I using the Internet?

    Now suppose the mailserver is outside my firewall. Am I on the Internet? What if I have my routing messed up and it goes out the T1 and comes back in, going a single hop to my ISP. Am I using the Internet yet?

    Suppose, as is actually the case, my mail server is several states away. If I send mail to someone else on it, am I subject to the tax? But it's a shared server; if I send mail to someone else who hosts there, but isn't related to my site, do I get taxed?

    Suppose I VPN into the server. Although some of the data goes over the Internet, my e-mail program 'thinks' it's on the local LAN. Am I taxed?

    And what if I own a small ISP with multiple data centers. If I send mail from my house to my local data center, which is sent over a WAN to another data center I / my company owns in another state, is it the Internet?

    My goal isn't to name every possible way of getting mail from one place to another. Rather, I'm trying to illustrate the ambiguity of exactly when something's on the Internet versus a private network, when most of the Internet _is_ a private network. But even if exact conditions could be drawn, I still this is _horribly_ flawed because it's a private network. (ie, my "road" analogy)

    In addition to the conceptual problems, it has a few serious flaws in practice as well. First, how will they know? Will every mailserver in the country start sending reports to the IRS on who is sending mail?

    A second flaw is that e-mail isn't always e-mail, if that makes any sense. If I send mail from Hotmail, and you receive it at Yahoo, neither of us have directly used anything but HTTP. It's not my 'fault' that it got sent over SMTP.

    And thirdly, I get a lot of mail that wouldn't be sent if it wasn't free. I'm on nearly a dozen mailing lists; is the mailserver going to be billed for every copy it sends out? Poor bugtraq! I also get mail anytime one of my comments here is replied to, or moderated. Countless other forums I visit do the same. I'm sure that none of these places would continue mailing helpful things like this if they had to pay.

    Oh, and there's another little issue... It probably won't be too effective against the spammers. Since many of them already bounce mail through open relays, forging headers, they're probably not going to pay a cent. Sure, after getting a massive 'bill' for the mail the 'victim' might prohibit relaying on their server, but it's definitely not going to end open relays entirely. All it's going to do is destroy the Internet as we know it.

    (BTW, after writing all this... Does anyone know if this idea is actually serious? I can't tell you how many e-mails I've received about how Congress is thinking of an e-mail tax to help the Post Office recoup lost money... Is it actually real now?)
  • by osgeek ( 239988 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:02AM (#5888511) Homepage Journal
    What a stupid idea.

    So, you've got something that should be illegal... spam. Rather than just making it explicitly illegal and dealing with law breakers, Lessig suggests that everyone pay a tax to solve the problem?

    Screw that. I pay for my internet connection. If I want to send out 1 million legitimate (non-spam) email messages a year, I shouldn't have to bear any extra costs not already accounted for in the price of my connection.

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