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How can the amount of undesired E-mail be reduced while preserving the Freedom of Speech and the Business of product information?

E-mail has been said to be the "Killer Ap" of the Internet in that it is often the reason that people use the Internet and they spend much of their time in reading and sending E-mail. On the other hand the percent of unintended E-mail had been growing to the point that many people believe that it is polluting the Internet, e.g. using bandwidth, storage, and personal time to delete it, to the point that some are starting to abandon it.

No one wants "unintended" E-mail, but the problem of eliminating "Spam" or UCE (Unsolicited Commercial E-mail) from the Internet is based on the following considerations:

  1. Free speech (political)-- The Internet is a "public space" in that it should allow people who have issues to post them so that they can inform others. If all E-mail, except for that that is requested is prohibited, then this eliminates this as a way to start a conversation on important issues.
  2. Business -- There is a business model based on informing people of products that they would not otherwise be informed about, pajoritivly called "Junk Mail". If only requested E-mail is permitted then the people and products that are involved in this sector of our economy will be unemployed and we will not be able to learn about products that we might have otherwise. Note: There is also a Free speech issue if such commercial speech is prohibited.
  3. Uncertainly -- One of the problems is that there is a "fine line" between unintended E-mail and mail that a person wants to see. Any proposal to eliminate Spam might also lead to eliminating mail that is desired.
  4. Lack of Boundaries -- In addition, since the Internet is global, there is the problem that even if Spam were illegal in a state, or in the entire US, then it could be issued from a site outside the area that the law covers, e.g. say the Caiman Islands

Also see: EFF objection

One proposal, being made by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose and Larry Lessig, Stanford law professor would require unsolicited commercial e-mail's to be identified as advertising -- and then put a bounty on anyone who breaks that law See: SJM . In a discussion with Declan McCullagh, Dr Lessig has stated that if such a law is passed and it does not reduce the level of Spam, he will resign, See: the details of his statement, and the acceptance. This is to be discussed at Stanford, Monday April 27-th. See: politechbot

Questions for the Monday meeting, MLL

  1. Is there some way to get this bill passed?
    1. Perhaps it can be looked at as an Anti-terrorism, as Viruses are usually passed through SPAM and thus such a bill would possibly reduce the CYBRO-teriorism,
    2. Perhaps if we can up the anti for passing it, e.g. We agree to purchase a copy protected version of the Matrix if it is passed, then the MPAA might support it, or if we point out that Dr. Lessig will resign and thus be less effective if it is passed, and ineffective, then the MPAA might support it to get rid of him.
  2. If this is effective, then how does it preserve the "Public Space" of the Internet? The problem is that it throws out the Baby, e.g. interesting un-requested mail, with the bath water, e.g. undesired Frauds, Pornography, and other Commercial Bulk mail.
  3. I suspect that the bounty needs to have some way to be paid "early". The FTC may take years to finish a trial and what we may need is a bounty fund, perhaps started as a "charity" by us annoyed users, that pays for the identification, and then is repaid when a case is settled. It may be that the Law could reserve some additional money to support such a fund for early payment.

Note: I am currently looking for a "proponent" for the bulk mail position, who supports the current state of no government involvement in the control of such mail, except for such libertarian sites as Cato: Whatever Happened to Leaving the Internet Unregulated? and John Gilmore's article: What to do about Spam? Use smarter mail readers, , though there are sites that advertise for distribution of bulk mail and for individual services and programs for the filtering of such mail.

Note: I am also currently looking for the exact wording of the bill to see its details.

Current ways to reduce Spam:

    1. Manually delete it from your Inbox
    2. Write filters in your E-mail client, "Outlook Express", "Eudora..." that will move suspicious mail to "SPAM" folders or delete it.
    3. Use general scripts that compute the probability of a message being Spam, and dealing with it accordingly
    4. Have lists of bad senders and move or delete mail from them. Note: This can be done locally, or by a service, BrightMail, SpamCop, etc.
    5. Have lists of good senders and keep or don't more mail from them

Proposals to reduce Spam by "law":

  1. Require Spam to be labeled: ADV, ADV:ADLT, etc. -- The problem is that it may be hard to enforce as the originators may not be easily traced, Lessig's proposal tries to approach this problem
  2. Have an enforced government list of people who do not want to be Spammed. -- It may be difficult to enforce and prevents any un-requested mail from being delivered.
  3. Charge the sender of E-mail for delivering it, possibly $0.01 per mail, -- The problem is that the sender may be over seas, the procedure for micro-charging is not developed, and we have not been in the practice of such charging, so it alters the "ecology" of the Internet.

Interesting articles

Spam Bills

Spam programs I have tried or considered

  1. Challenge-Response (Whitelist/Blacklist)
  2. Bayes Filter -- Based on SpamAssassin

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July 6, 2003 16:17