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Replies to Financial Times and taxing all electronic mail

Previous Politech message:

And here's a back message on the U.N. email tax proposal (probably safe to 
say that it's a silly idea that comes up every few years):



Date: Wed, 07 May 2003 12:12:43 +0530
To: declan@well.com, politech@politechbot.com
From: Suresh Ramasubramanian <suresh@hserus.net>
Subject: Re: FC: Financial Times commentary: It's time to tax all email!
In-Reply-To: <>

At 12:40 AM 5/7/2003 -0400, Declan McCullagh wrote:
>[Anyone remember that UN report talking about an email tax -- a 
>thinly-disguised wealth transfer to African governments? --Declan]




Suresh Ramasubramanian + suresh <@> hserus dot net
EMail Sturmbannführer, Lower Middle Class Sysadmin


Date: Wed, 7 May 2003 01:36:03 -0500
Subject: Re: FC: Financial Times commentary: It's time to tax all email!
From: Steve Stearns <sterno@bigbrother.net>
To: declan@well.com

To sum up what's wrong with this idea, I have a simple question:

Declan, if it cost you a penny per message to send out the Politech
mailings, would you send it?

I could get into the serious technical flaws in implementing such a
concept, or the likely misallocation of the tax money once collected,
but I think the political and social ramifications of taxing e-mail
discussion lists out of existence is plenty enough to justify killing
off such an idea.



Date: Wed, 7 May 2003 11:39:30 +0200 (CEST)
From: Thomas Shaddack <shaddack@ns.arachne.cz>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
cc: <politech@politechbot.com>
Subject: Re: FC: Financial Times commentary: It's time to tax all email!

Stupid. And, luckily, unenforceable.

This would painfully hit mailing list operators and many other free

But this - ahem - idea can not get implemented. There maybe are ways to
tax ISP servers, but there is no way to enforce all the small private SMTP
servers (like the one next to me) to pay. Yes, the ISP could monitor the
communication between me and "rogue" email servers. Big deal; putting the
SMTP service to nondefault port with SSL wrapper takes no more than few
minutes, including download of stunnel. The same is valid for POP3 and
IMAP. The traffic between individual SMTP servers can be recognized, but
if the servers support STARTTLS extension (SSL/TLS again), any adversary
with a packet monitor can see only the connection handshake, not who sends
what to whom, nor if the connection is for one mail only or for a long
series of them. One could say that the Taxmen could trace down the
originating servers and force the payments to the users by the server
logs, but that's in orders of magnitude more costly than it would bring in
revenues. It is also somehow difficult to apply to offshore mail servers -
which would pop up rapidly, if only for convenience reasons. An unofficial
"FSMTP" (Free SMTP) hierarchy would most likely appear even within the
affected countries. There are way way too many privately-operated small

The whole thing would be just one more unenforceable and widely
disrespected law.


To: declan@well.com
Subject: Re: FC: Financial Times commentary: It's time to tax all email!
From: Dave Close <dave@compata.com>
Date: Wed, 07 May 2003 00:10:32 -0700
Sender: dave@compata.com

Christopher Caldwell wrote:
 >But, very soon, the Internet should turn into a penny post, with a levy of
 >1 cent per letter. This would cost the average e-mailer about $10 a year.
 >Small companies would pay bills in the hundreds of dollars; very large ones
 >in the thousands. And spammers would be driven to honest employment. The
 >tax could be made progressive by exempting, say, those who sent fewer than
 >5,000 letters a year. The proceeds could go to maintain and expand 

Spammers don't send from their own computers or accounts. Any such tax
would fall on their victims. As such, it might encourage better security,
but it would not directly hit a spammer's pocketbook.

Email identities are also amorphous. Any exemption for the "first" so
many messages would prove to be a blanket exemption for all messages as
people would simply open additional accounts to send more mail. Doing
that would not even impact their address as such mail could still direct
replies to the sender's normal mailbox.
        Dave Close, Compata, Costa Mesa CA       +1 714 434 7359
        dave@compata.com              dhclose@alumni.caltech.edu
         "Quantum computing is a marvelous way to show the non-
          intuitive nature of quantum mechanics." -Gordon Moore


Date: Wed, 07 May 2003 05:47:01 -0400
From: Nick Bretagna <onemug@bellsouth.net>
Reply-To: afn41391@afn.org
To: declan@well.com
Subject: Re: FC: Financial Times commentary: It's time to tax all email!

Would that we could tax *idiots* instead... oh, wait, that's called a 
"State Lottery"... never mind.
>The Fort-Worth Star-Telegram reported this week on a spammer who sends 10m 
>e-mails a day, peddling cyber-eavesdropping software for $39.99; the 50 
>daily orders he culls earn him $700,000 a year.
Screw the bounty on spammers, we need a bounty on **idiots** who reply to 

The whole spam problem is a classic 
"<http://members.aol.com/trajcom/private/trajcom.htm>Tragedy of the 
Commons" example.

The internet really only needs to have some measure of traffic mensuration 
for dealing with extreme imbalances of input/output. That *alone* would 
take care of this issue.

Measuring and assessing fees (to be distributed to the major carriers for 
paying for overhead, perhaps) to any connection which puts, say, more than 
5x *into* the system than it *receives* in traffic volume would solve this 
in no time (perhaps the other way, more than 5x volume received, ought 
*also* to be charged). By doing this, any connection will police its own 
downstream users and control how much they add to the system or at the 
least charge them for its contribution to the volume of traffic.

It would be exceedingly easy to implement and does not require limiting 
anyone's actions in any way other than by simple financial pressure to pay 
for what you get.

------- --------- ------- -------- ------- ------- -------
Nicholas Bretagna II


Date: Wed, 7 May 2003 07:27:59 -0400
From: Rich Kulawiec <rsk@firemountain.net>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
Subject: Re: FC: Financial Times commentary: It's time to tax all email!

On Wed, May 07, 2003 at 12:40:25AM -0400, Declan McCullagh wrote:
 > [Anyone remember that UN report talking about an email tax -- a
 > thinly-disguised wealth transfer to African governments? --Declan]


Of course, taxing email would have exactly ZERO effect on spammers.
Anyone who's going to abuse an open relay, hijack an insecured proxy,
or, as we've seen recently, steal an entire chunk of ARIN IP space
to create a stealth spam network, will hardly be deterred by a tax.
The author of this bonehead screed clearly knows NOTHING about how
the Internet works and how spammers abuse it.

What it would do is impose yet another burden on the victims of spam,
and on the hundreds of thousands of legitimate mailing lists -- many
of which have been peacefully operating for years, long before spam
became the problem it is today.

It would also be widely evaded by switching to another port, another
protocol, tunneling traffic, or any number of other means.

The only purpose this would serve is to fill *somebody's* coffers:
but whose, and for what reason?



Date: Wed, 07 May 2003 12:41:52 -0400
From: "J.D. Abolins" <jda-ir@njcc.com>
Subject: Re: FC: Financial Times commentary: It's time to tax all email!
In-reply-to: <>
To: declan@well.com

On Wednesday 07 May 2003 00:40, Declan McCullagh wrote:
 > [Anyone remember that UN report talking about an email tax -- a
 > thinly-disguised wealth transfer to African governments? --Declan]

Yes, I remember that.

Looking at the email tax proposal, I see various nasties.

A jurist said that the power to tax is the power to destroy. Although the
quote has been overused, it is a risk for email.

What would the power to tax do to anonymous remailers and other privacy
resources? Would the tax be collected at the ISP initially connected to by
the anon user? Could the implementation of the tax scheme blow the degree of
identity fogging?

Web-based free email services would be hit unless their user's ISPs can detect
and tax all the emails sent via Hotmail and other services.

How does one tax internation email. The $10 per year figure cited for the
"average user" is a hefty sum in various parts fo the world. One effect might
be to discourage people in those parts of the world from using email or,.
more likely, encourage workarounds to buy pass the tax.

I can see workplaces really clamping down on email access overall to cut tax
costs. Internal emails would be allowed but external ones might have be
limited to managers and other select people or employees have to show a
cost/benefit analysis of their email use. While this might help deal with
some workplace concerns of cyberslacking, the tax is a bad way to deal with
frivilous emails.

The impact upon maillists has already been mentioned as a problem for various
email tax scemes. One "fix" might be the creation of exemtpions --akin to the
US exemptions for religious, educational, and charitable organizations -- for
email tax, exemptions that will get messy. To get the exemptions would
probably entail registration of the participants, a problematic measure for
some types of lists.

And I've only scratched the surface.

J.D. Abolins

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