Ban Spam, Don't Just Filter It

Cloudmark, which manufactures spam filters for corporations, is hawking an e-mail rating system that it says could solve the problem of ‘False-Positives’ — solicited e-mail that gets caught in spam filters. Nice try, but technological solutions aren’t really going to solve the spam problem.

We think the solution is that spam should be made outright illegal. We’ve argued for that ever since 1997, when as a member of the Interactive Services Association’s Ad Hoc Consumer Privacy Task Force we were trying to craft guideline recommendations for submission to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s hearings about online marketing. (The other Task Force members were NetCreations, Microsoft, AOL, and AT&T. NetCreations and Digital Deliverance argued for a total ban on unsolicited commercial marketing e-mails, but the other members were against that ban. Guess which two companies later that year were quietly dropped from the Task Force?)

Solving the spam problem simply by installing spam filters and not making spam illegal is like solving the burglary problem by installing burglary alarms and not making burglary illegal.

Foes claims that making spam illegal won’t eradicate the spam problem. That’s true: making burglary illegal hasn’t eradicated burglary. It’s merely made our homes and offices a lot more safe, secure, and enjoyable.