View Thread > Internet Law Colloquium > Your Spam Solution > Additional comments
It's November 4, 2004. In the post-election planning, the victorious presidential candidate's advisers ask you what their approach to spam should be in the next four years. They are interested in what steps (if any) the government should take on its own, and what steps it should encourage other entities (such as ISPs or the IETF) to take.
In your response, please do three things:
1. Outline how the U.S. should proceed on spam policy for the next four years.
2. Explain with greater detail what steps are the keys to success.
3. Explain how you will measure success in these efforts.
Please take a look at the spam discussions for Prof. Palfrey's Cyberlaw and the Global Economy class before responding: http://h2o.law.harvard.edu/viewRotisserie.do?rotisserieId=547
It has been suggested the SPAM is costing American over $200 billion a year. Much of this SPAM is being sent from overseas, from countries such a Nigeria. The real question is whether, as Americans, we can continue to live in fear of unannounced and unprovoked and unsolicited email advertisements and promotional vehicles. How long can we live in terror, afraid to press the send/receive email button due to the constant uncertainty of when and where and who will be forwarding a stock tip or deal on herbal phen-fen?
My fellow Americans, the solution is obvious and clear. We must go after the SPAMers before the SPAMers can get to us. This is the only way that secure the safety and privacy of our home email account. These SPAMers know no morals nor respect any code of human civility. From this day forward, either you are with us in securing a world for our children that is free from the menance of SPAM, or you are with the SPAMers. The United States reserves the right to pre-emptively stop any SPAM from any where in the world before it can reach the homeland. America will never cede this right to protect itself to any foreign entity, being the U.N. or ICANN or the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
The economic productivity of the United States is at stake here. SPAMers are trying to bury the American way of life under a barrage of email missives. This will not, and cannot stand. Although some question the wisdom of such an approach, it is only by spreading the liberty from SPAM that we can be free from its tyranny. And when presented with the choice, liberty will always conquer tyranny.
Thus, I propose that we can cost effectively liberate nations such as Nigeria from the strugglehold of the SPAM warlords. The cost of SPAM to this country is comparable to the cost of the war in Iraq. Since the liberation of Iraq was clearly necessary for our safety from terrorism, fighting SPAM terrorism is also clearly cost justified. The SPAMers of the world will know that Nigeria will no longer be a safe haven for them, and they will know that whereever in the world that they are, we will find them, and shut them down. A free and liberated Nigeria is vital for our grandchildren to live in a world free from the terror of SPAM.
On a more serious note, SPAM survives because it still makes money. People do respond to it. Fraudulent SPAM schemes must be pursued aggressively as any other type of fraud and allocating more resources to combat SPAM (e.g. stock fraud schemes... someone is buying and selling those shares; we should be able to track them down). Also, most people are not aware that their email addresses are being bought on sold on the "LEGITIMATE" market by your banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, etc. These lists are too easy to obtain and float around to SPAMers, not just to "legitimate commerical advertisers using email" (how many of us actually read the fine print to our cellphone contracts where the provider expressly states that they reserve the right to sell your number to 3rd parties?). This makes it easier for SPAMers to do their business. We should have explicit opt-in provisions for protecting email addresses, making the costs of these list prohibitive to smaller businesses. With this and other technological barriers, the cost and effectiveness of SPAM may get down to the point where it becomes prohibited, unless done an a very massive scale. This will effectively drive smaller businesses for turning to legitimate email adverstiser and illegitimate SPAMers. Large scale and massive SPAMing would be easier to detect, and hopefully filtered out. Larger businesses can coordinate with ISPs to make sure "legitimate" mail is delivered (e.g. ISP will make them pay for the service, ala DAUM). By driving up the costs of "legitimate" email advertising, small businesses will stop doing it, leaving the landscape to large advertisers (and SPAM will resemble more like TV advertisers), which would then be easily distinguishable from the plan fraud SPAMs. Also, trusted networks and community SPAM tagging will help ID and knock out SPAM. My general view is that the cost-benefits of SPAMing must be shifted somehow, and i'm not sure if legal constraints will provide enough of a cost deterent.
Also, I thought that the whole idea of trusted networks by Derek is intriguing. In general, i like the idea of the members of the community regulating themselves. When i was working, we had a program that we could tag an email as SPAM and would be added to a SPAM list if enought people running this program also tagged it as SPAM. This message would automatically be filtered if it broke the threshold. What i also liked about this, was that companies that are trying to legitimately use email advertising, but are not very strict with their policies, having a reliable UNSUBSCRIBE function, or not very clear about whether you have signed up (e.g. how did i get on the Redsox.com email list? I just bought tickets online once!), would also get dinged. Such programs not only scam the headers and IP addresses, but also the content of the messages (same formatting, text, etc.). Although there is a danger in this being used maliciously to suppress legitmate free speech (or target companies you just don't like), i think that a community approach has a lot of promise.