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By hbzadeh
Email has become the communication of choice for most of the developed world. Its misuse in the form of junk mails has also become a big headache for almost all users and costs billions of $ in time and resources wasted. Effective remedies have been developed, but none are 100% effective. Worst, it is the recipients - and not the senders - who have to pay to protect themselves from junk mails or get rid of them. Time to turn the table: make junk mailers pay for use of email, and see the volume of junks dropping fast!

Essentially, the problem is that email usually costs nothing, zilch, for the sender. In every other form of communication, the initiator pays for the service. Here, the cost usually falls on the receiver. This is an anomaly, and the biggest incentive for junk emailers and all those who carelessly use large lists to send out unsolicited emails containing whatever they fancy or use “reply to all” to make everybody see their brilliant comments. If they know that they are going to be charged then they will think again. But how can they be charged?

Internet is free and unregulated. Nobody owns it. So who is going to charge for sending email? Surely, not the mail servers. It doesn’t cost them much (which they recover several times through advertising anyway), and nobody will pay them if they start to charge. There will always be some servers that will offer this service for free. Time for Big Brother to step in: time for States to charge for emails in a form of tax!

So the idea is simple: the State could impose a tax on all emails originating or ending in its territory, say at the rate of few cents per addressee – and make email servers act as it collecting agents (like sale tax). This will still make email much much cheaper than snail mail and so would not kill this form of communication for normal use. However, it will make anyone sending bulk mail to stop and think if it’s worth their while. That is: it will make them use the email as a proper form of communication and give it its due character of decency and etiquette.

It is surely technically possible to do so – i.e., for mail serves to devise software to count all addressees of emails going through their system and charge the senders. This should be easier for local senders. For those emails coming from overseas, an arrangement like what the post systems use for international letters/parcels can be used: the originating country collects the charge and then share it with the system in the destination country.

There will sure be exceptions, like intranets. So corporations will not be charged for their internal mails. Also, emails requiring receipts will incur extra charges (so the recipient doesn’t have to pay). Other exceptions may also be thought of - for instance proper subscription services may be able to register and get a waiver or a reduction in their charge.

And one more thing: it should also help cut virus dispersal. As a service to their customers, servers could devise system of double-checking for emails: when an email arrives, the server sends a query to the sender asking if the email is genuine (and the customer is happy to pay for it). On confirmation, the email goes through. A bit of extra work for sending emails (but still far easier than using snail mail), but a sure way of not spreading viruses involuntarily.

And yes, a huge revenue source for the State. I wouldn’t mind that, if it helps finance some public services or a cut from my direct tax.

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