Re: Anti-spam group works to make senders pay (SCMP T3, February 15 2005)

First published: 15th February 2005

Randall Stross is mistaken if he thinks a digital version of the "penny black" will stop spammers, and worse, imposing an extra charge on senders (whether in cash or CPU cycles) will undermine the utility of email altogether.

Firstly, a charge will not stop spammers: the worst of today's spammers are already using "zombies" (other peoples machines that they have infected with a trojan or virus) to send spam. They will simply pass on the charges to these victims.

Secondly, the value of a message is not necessarily related to what the sender can "pay" to send it - a charity might have a large, well-managed mailing list, should it be forced to spend donations on buying more processing power to do useless calculations?

Thirdly, charging will make the Digital Divide larger. Today you can still use a second-hand computer, perhaps ten years old, to send email, but a "simple" computational challenge that takes 10 seconds on today's machines might take a thousand times longer on an old machine. The charges will affect those least able to pay the most.

I do not think there is a "magic bullet" for spam, control will require a combination of multiple technologies and laws, but "sender surcharged" solutions are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.