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Subject: [IP] more on Stopping spam isn't as easy as you might hope

  • From: Dave Farber <>
  • To:
  • Date: Sat, 31 May 2003 15:30:09 -0400

>Date: Sat, 31 May 2003 15:20:54 -0400
>From: Bob Frankston <>
>Since this is a recurring issue I should update
> For now I'll simply say that
>the concept of spam itself is the result of having a word that can be used
>in lieu of understanding.
>There are really two issues. One is the concern about the volume of mail and
>I'm not convinced that it is that bad compared with what the capacity we'll
>need when video traffic becomes the norm. But it's really a denial of
>service issue not an email attention issue.
>The spam problem is really an attention problem (separating out the issue of
>slow pipes and fraud which is ever present) and is the to-be-expected result
>of having one well-known magic name that all can use to reach us be it by
>phone/fax, direct mail, email or other ways. There are also indirect ways
>such as advertisements (which are invisible only because we've learned to
>manage our attention). Many approaches to spam seem to assume that there is
>an omniscient and prescient version of Maxwell's Demon that can make a
>static distinction between those with good intent and bad intent or which
>simply knows what we're interested in at the moment. This is also the
>presumption that makes people ask for firewalls and leads to increasingly
>complex and problematic solutions when failures make people try harder
>rather than recognizing the fundamentally flaws in the concept. Aside from
>being ineffective, the appeal to a central authority is basically
>antithetical to the underlying end to end concept. Since SMTP is an edge
>protocol, there isn't a place for the demon to sit in the middle of the
>network anyway.
>What we really need are edge tools that help us manage the demands on our
>attention and capabilities rather than names to manage our personas. Of
>course these are all going to be imperfect since there cannot be a static
>As an aside, the payment system ideas are tempting and can be implemented at
>the edges. While I know reporters who would like to put their fax on a 900
>number I don't know of any who have actually taken that step. There actually
>is a version that is implemented -- advertisers pay third parties to
>piggy-back on their reputation and reach their viewers or readers. There are
>even publications that are 100% advertisements that you choose to view.
>I'm especially concerned with proposals that make the .COM problem far worse
>by presuming that the DNS is the source of all authority (and wisdom) rather
>than just a binding mechanism. Just because I have an MX record somewhere
>should not subject me to commercial conditions of all the zone owners in DNS
>path. As John Levine pointed out, some proposals are like making it illegal
>to drop a (paper) letter in a mail slot other than the one near my house.
>This is the kind of rigid centralism that threatens the Internet.
>The anger at spam is real but so is the danger of misguided solutions that
>only create worse problems while only addressing the symptoms.

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