Spam and Advertisement--Proposing a Model for Charging Intrusion


To narrow the definition, the author defines spam as unsolicited bulk e-mail, with emphasis on "

unsolicited" and "bulk." It is estimated to constitute 80% of e-mail traffic (one investigation estimated over 50 spam messages per day per user), and is considered to be a problem for numerous reasons, including:

Spam is attractive to marketers because it reaches a very large audience at a very low cost, and even a small percentage of responses makes it economically worthwhile. Users share the blame for keeping it effective: while 70% of respondents indicated spam was "unpleasant or annoying," about 28% have responded to spam messages and about 8% have purchased a product advertised by spam (EN: specifics details, such as "ever" or "within the last year", are not disclosed.)

Spam is also spreading to other channels: instant messaging, cell phone text messages, etc., which can be more costly and invasive to the user.


Spam and the Protection of Personal Data

Primarily, the use of personal data (e-mail address) to send unwanted communications is seen as a fundamental issue for spammers. (EN: details provided, but the statement is self-evident).

Another legal aspect of spam involves the compiling of databases and mailing lists, primarily in that spammers are not concerned with gathering this information by legal means, and tactics include misleading users and even hacking private databases to harvest addresses. No consent is asked of the user to send advertising to them, and these lists are often shared or sold to third parties without the consent of the users.


Due to a lack of legal remedies for spammers, the United States is seen as the largest source or spam (one study found 90% of spam received overseas is from US locations). In 1993, the "CAN SPAM" act was passed by congress, imposing fines and imprisonment for specific behaviors (such as falsifying sender information) and requiring certain practices (prefacing the subject line with "ADV", providing an opt-out, etc.) However, there has been no appreciable effort to enforce this law.


Meanwhile, the European Union has implemented stricter guidelines as to the conditions under which commercial e-mail may be sent, though these guidelines are not legally binding. While member nations have accepted them in principle, they have not enforced them in practice, and the legislation applies only to senders within the EU (earlier statistic: less than 10% is domestic spam).


The author presents some calculations that, in effect, are designed to arrive at a proposal to charge for spam. (EN: skipping the equations). In effect, he is advocating that ISPs should charge for outbound traffic, above what could be considered to be a normal level of use, and at a price-per-message that, based on a 0.1% response rate, would make e-mail advertising as expensive as other means of bulk advertising (notably, mail).

Such a cost would provide a financial deterrent to spammers, who would need to carefully consider which recipients are likely to react favorably to a message. Legitimate advertisers could still use e-mail as an advertising tool, recipients would receive less unwanted mail, and service providers would be compensated for the load on their systems.

EN: The downside, which he does not mention, is that it is impracticable. It would need to be universal, as spammers would flock to services that do not impose charges (just as they currently flock to ISPs that do not prohibit spamming). Voluntary compliance is unlikely, and legal measures would be no more effective than the existing ones.