Chocolate and Gold Coins

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

E-Mail Transfer Payments to Stop Spam

Richard Posner of the Becker-Posner Blog complains about e-mail spam. He writes:

Spam imposes costs (without offsetting benefits) of two kinds. First, most of it is of no interest whatsoever to recipients and some of it is downright offensive; hence receipt imposes a cost. … Second, the cost of filtering out spam (the demand for such filtering being further evidence that spam imposes net costs on most of the people who receive it) to the computer industry, and of “binning” in in hard drives and servers, is already in the billions of dollars a year, for which the spammers don’t pay.

The always-interesting Half Sigma comments about it and links to a previous post he made on the same subject.

I have a simple solution to the spam problem. The e-mail providers should simply charge the e-mail user a fee – maybe 25 cents – for each e-mail sent. The money would not go to the e-mail service or the government (leave them out of this) but to the recipient. If you send as many e-mails as you receive, it evens out, and e-mail is still free. If you receive tons of unsolicited e-mail, you are compensated for this bother. If you are a spammer, it becomes very costly to do business.

The big e-mail providers can easily switch to this kind of service overnight by asking the users to set up a money account when they open an e-mail account. They might ask for a one-time set-up fee of $10, which would pay for 40 e-mails. People like me would still have $10 in their accounts because we receive as much mail as we send. And if you discontinue service, the provider refunds your money.

Now suppose that you had to pay 25 cents to leave a comment on a blog. It would certainly cut down the number of comments, but it might improve the quality. I might actually comment more on the blogs that I like as a simple way of putting a coin in the hat. But I doubt anyone would ever comment on my blog.


  • Michael,

    Here's my 25 cents. I like the pay per email idea, but I think rogue email providers will sprout up, allowing spammers to continue sending their garbage without making payments. It'll probably be similar to the situation right between illegal P2P music sharing programs and iTunes and other pay for music programs. It's a shame that there is always going to be a way for these people to cheat the system, but I guess that's just a tradeoff of technological advancement.


    By Blogger Vikram A., at 2:52 PM  

  • I've long supported charging for email, and the charge should be a lot less than 25 cents. Try a penny.

    The typical spammer sends out hundreds of thousands of emails to make a few thousand dollars. Even a penny per email will make most spam unprofitable.

    By Blogger Calico Cat, at 3:52 PM  

  • And if you want more people to comment on your blog, try allowing people without Blogger accounts to comment.

    By Blogger Calico Cat, at 3:53 PM  

  • What happens if I send out a mail to a group of ppl? In order to maintain parity, my charge should proportionately increase with number of receivers. If that isnt a pain in itself, if were to send a mail to a yahoogroup I'll go broke :(

    By Blogger eV, at 3:09 AM  

  • Hi ev
    What? Are you a spammer?
    Just kidding.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 3:36 PM  

  • Hi Calico Cat
    I fixed the problem with the comments. Now others can comment.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 3:40 PM  

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