Freedom from spam: just tax them

May 10th, 2009 - 2:42 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, May 10 (IANS) A staggering 200 billion spam mails are sent every day, clogging your mailbox and possibly slowing down your genuine mail. Time to consider taxing them and raising money for roads and bridges.
According to an estimate, more than 90 percent of all e-mails sent and received around the globe are spam - advertising aphrodisiacs while trying to push virus in your computer or luring you with million dollars out of a Nigerian bank provided you provide your bank account details.

North America is the world leader in the junk mail market with 40 billion of them originating in the US and Canada every day, followed by Britain at 6 billion.

While they are sent free of cost, they come at a cost to the world. They make spam filters necessary, affect productivity and add burden to the increasingly crowded bandwidth, affecting the movement of genuine mail. They also eat up the recipient’s time in deleting a score of them daily.

How to stop this menace is a global problem. To this end, Internet service providers (ISPs) have proposed price mechanisms, but users have objected.

The Prospect journal has argued for a simple remedy: a very small tax on every e-mail sent.

“Opponents will argue that collecting the tax is impossible or unfair. Yet the status quo is unworkable… A unit tax on e-mail would stop most spam. A peddler sending one million messages a day hawking cross-border pharmaceuticals, for instance, would have to balance the uncertain revenues against the tax cost of 100,000 pounds or $150,000 a week. Trying to con people out of money or their bank password would become a risky gamble,” Edward Gottesman argues in the latest issue of the journal.

He says the tax is feasible from the practical point of view too.

“Whether you’re using a browser or a client-based e-mail system, every e-mail sent must have both a sender address and a recipient address - each in the form someone@somewhere.” This makes all e-mails easily identifiable by ISPs, through which most private Internet traffic is routed.

“As they already impose a monthly charge on users, it would be simple for ISPs to pay the tax and pass it on in the monthly bill to their users. The first 400 or 500 e-mails sent each month can be included in a fixed charge, with the rest charged on top.”

The tax will be negligible, on the other hand, for ordinary users who send out, say, 10 or 20 mails a day. That should also deter them from forwarding every joke they receive in e-mail and building chain mails of petitions.

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