Spam tax

Somehow the spam I’m getting is getting better with subject lines that make me open the message (hmmm, maybe they’re reading some of my posts!). Things like “Can we meet this week?” and “Following up about next week’s lunch.”

I’m a huge, huge fan of Chris Anderson’s email charter and believe that there’s a LOT we can do to free ourselves from the non-spam email onslaught by changing our own behaviors and expectations.

But spam is still a huge amount of all email sent (as much as 90% in 2009, though it has been dropping lately), and spam that’s getting through my (and your) email filter is getting smarter every day.

So here’s an idea: create a $0.10 spam tax that is platform-independent (works on Google as well as Outlook).  If an email recipient hits the “report spam” button:

  • They are automatically unsubscribed from that email list (this may be difficult to implement, but if possible it would prevent abuse of the “tax them” link while also killing two birds with one stone – unsubscribing + tax)
  • If more than a certain number of people (100) qualify an email as spam, the tax kicks in (again to prevent frivolity)
  • Implement this universally with a single searchable web-based database of spammers, also listed tax paid, etc.

There’s some work to be done to make the tax big enough to have this be a real deterrent – ideally the tax level would be greater than what spammers pay to buy my email address.

This feels like a pipe dream, but maybe someone can take the idea and make it better.

My Outlook “Block sender” button doesn’t feel like enough any more, since these people are actively cutting into my (and your) productive time, and it would be of great public value to architect a “sin tax” that puts a damper on this.

For the comments section: what would you do with the money collected through this tax?

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