TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Getting Serious About the War on Spam

Re: Getting Serious About the War on Spam
21 Apr 2005 09:45:49 -0700

Paul Vader wrote:

>> Well then, who IS responsible to do the job? If no such job
>> exists, why isn't one created?

> A) Why would anyone living in a free country want controls on what people
> can say?

Your question assumes there are no controls on what people can say.
That assumption is wrong -- we have many controls on what we can say.
Among other things, you may not threaten anyone, harass anyone,
disburse certain kinds of pornography or libel or slander another

Further, various communication media have additional restrictions
on them. The US Mail has restrictions, as does the use of the
telephone or loudspeakers.

Spam is harassment. It requires the _receiver_ to expend time
and money to deal with it day after day.

> B) Do you really misunderstand the internet so badly that you think that
> there's any place you COULD create controls?

Any computer system has the capability of including controls.
Well-run computer systems had controls included within them right from
the start. I don't know the technical details of the Internet; nor is
there any need for me to. The fact is that the Internet has serious
problems and it's up to the people who operate it to fix it.

> C) Who says what's allowable or not? I vote for NOBODY.

See A) above. Laws already exist that determine what is
allowable or not. Sabotage via a "virus" is pretty obvious.
Further, fixing the Internet is not merely an issue of
"content" but also dealing with cost allocation and sender

> The internet doesn't exist - it's just a bunch of public ways
> connecting private networks. No website runs 'on the internet' - it's
> a peephole into private property that you get to look into. If you
> don't like what's going on inside, don't peek. *

That's flat out wrong. Pat below gives a good analogy, but
there are others. You do not have anonymity when using your
telephone -- your number is transmitted to certain recipients
whether you like it or not. The US Mail is a "public way"
connecting people, but there are laws on using it just the same,
just as there are laws on using your telephone.

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Oh, sure as hell, Paul! And every
> public highway in the world has lots of private driveways attached to
> it, but there are still rules to follow in order to be on the
> highway.

Excellent point.

> Let me ask you this: In 1905, when automobiles were first beginning to
> show up in mass numbers (on the non-highways which connected the
> little towns and roads of America) were you also opposed to speed
> limits, license plates -- indeed driver's licenses -- and rules which
> pertain to hit and run, etc. A lot of people were, you know, seriously.

The extent of such motor vehicle laws remains under great debate
today -- many people oppose new public safety laws (see misc.transport.road
for passionate discussions on this issue). Many people object to being
ordered to wear their seatbelts or not use their cell phone.

But the bottom line is that as soon as there was more than one car on
the road with the potential of hitting each other (as well as people
and objects off to the side), laws were required to control use. The
more cars on the road, the more laws required.

When the Internet was a private network serving an exclusive
community, few rules were needed. But like roads, the Internet is no
longer a private enclave. People and businesses are dependent on
their computers and email to conduct business and viruses and spam
have shut whole businesses down. This is unacceptable just as
tolerating drunk drivers is unacceptable.

In the 1950s, engineers studying growing car accidents realized
certain things could be done to save lives. The auto industry fought
these tooth and nail, a fight that continues to this day. It's the
same thing with the Internet -- laws are required to protect the public

The issue is not whether laws are required, but rather what specific
laws and the degree of regulation are required.

Bob Goudreau wrote:

> inconceivable that an economy with *no one at all* in charge could not
> only work, but indeed actually work much *better* than one run in a
> top-down fashion by a select group of alleged economic experts.

Your analogy isn't true -- it's wrong to say the U.S. economy has
"no one at all" in charge. Far from it.

First off, considerable control of the economy is exercised by the
Federal Reserve in regulating banking activity and the govt itself
influences activity by tax policy.

Secondly, and more importantly, the economy operates under a complex
set of laws governing commercial activity. If I hand you a piece of
colored slip of paper printed "certified check" you have very strong
confidence that paper will convert into cash for you without question
or trouble. That doesn't happen by accident, it happens by laws
regulating the banking system.

These laws didn't happen by chance, they happened because the economy
was growing but lacked the confidence and controls to work without
undue risk. Many laws came out of the economic collapse of 1929.

Indeed, a big problem with today's Russian economy is that there are
few laws and controls on their economy. Assumptions safely made in
U.S. trade cannot be done in Russia. Everything has much higher risk.

> And so it is with the internet. It turns out that just letting
> different private networks work out for themselves the terms of how
> they wanted to connect (or not) with other such networks became far
> more attractive to customers than the old centrally controlled "walled
> garden" private commercial networks that were around in the early
> 1980s (Compuserve, the original AOL, etc.)

That arrangement has serious problems. Trying to fix said problems
is the point of our discussion.

IMHO, the private networks liked Compuserve failed because (1) they
came along too early in the PC era and (2) they were too expensive.
There was a limit on how much work could be done on a 2400 modem and
Compuserve virtually metered every keystroke. Having an email account
was of little value when no one else you knew had a computer and
account in those days.

> No one is "in charge" of the internet, any more than someone is "in
> charge" of a market economy.

> Yes, both of them need a certain amount of rules in order to function
> (e.g., consensus on which currencies/protocols are popular enough to
> merit being used to exchange value/data; rights to own physical
> property/address numbering and name-space resources; rules against
> fraudulent behavior that would deprive someone of their property,
> etc.)

Your two statements contradict each other. Either there is control or
no control. Clearly there IS control. Thus, our debate becomes not
one of having control (as some are framing it), but rather the
_degree_ of control.

> But you can't go too crazy with the rules, or else you end up
> either with rules that don't/can't get enforced (see: Prohibition, or
> the "CAN-SPAM" act) or you have to implement such an onerous
> overweening system of control that you lose the benefits of the free
> exchange of property/data (see: the North Korean economy, or the
> rigidly-controlled Chinese internet).

When mandatory seatbelt-wearing laws came out, not everybody obeyed
them. But they had the positive effect of encouraging more seatbelt
use and saved many lives. Laws and enforcement aren't perfect, but
the system overall does work.

The U.S. prospered BECAUSE of regulated trade laws (provided for
in the original Constitution), not in spite of them. People had
far higher confidence and consistency in what they were dealing with.

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