Spam campaigners reject email payment plan

Spam campaigners reject email payment plan

Summary: Spamhaus says the email charges planned by Yahoo and AOL will erode our freedoms

TOPICS: Security

A leading anti-spam agency has hit out at moves to charge companies a fixed fee to ensure emails are delivered, saying it will erode freedoms.

On Monday, Richard Cox, chief information officer of anti-spam organisation Spamhaus, said that "an email charge will destroy the spirit of the Internet."

"The Internet has become what it is because of freedom of communication. Open discussion is what gives it value. There should be no cost for particular services, and email should be free and accessible to all. This will disenfranchise people," said Cox.

According to reports, Internet giants AOL and Yahoo are planning to charge companies up to a cent, which at the moment equates to just over half a penny, per email to guarantee delivery.

Paid-for emails would not go through AOL spam filters, meaning businesses could send marketing emails directly to the potential customers' inboxes, without the risk of the mails being sent to a junk mail folder or having Web links and images stripped, according to an article The New York Times.

This wouldn't be a licence to spam AOL and Yahoo users, though, as any firm that used the service would have to show that under anti-spam laws they had the right to send the emails.

Cox said that charging for email services was unlikely to reduce spam despite what he thinks AOL and Yahoo will claim.

"It won't reduce spam directly. AOL is already good at managing spam issues, and Yahoo is getting better," said Cox. "It may make it easier to filter mail, and may provide more resources for spam prevention, but it could also mean that people lose emails, and so change provider," Cox added.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the government organisation in charge of enforcing anti-spam legislation in the UK, cautiously welcomed AOL and Yahoo's move.

"If businesses are being charged it will encourage them to keep their email lists up-to-date. It could encourage greater compliance with [anti-spam] regulations, which is a good thing from our perspective," said Dave Evans, senior guidance and promotion manager for the ICO.

"It may also discourage businesses from sending unsolicited emails, because if they have to pay it will be more of a decision to make to send them. Businesses probably wouldn't want to pay for undelivered messages or emails that bounce back," Evans added.

Topic: Security

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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  • There is one way to tell the Government what it is costing business - the from C and Corporate tax return there is a space for other expenses.
    We deduct 15 minues a day per employee and itemize it on our tax return.
    Our accountant says this is perfectly legal and correct.
    Once the Feds find out the drag on business they will enfore the law.
    Junk mail by USPO is OK becasue it goes into the trash before being distributed - they pay for equipment and expenses.
    E-Mial trash is paid for by fees carged by my provider, I buy the equipment and maintain it.
    Whats wrong with this picture.
    If I ever met a spamer - I would give him a frontal lobotomamy with my Louisville slugger.
  • there should be no charge for e mail since this is the only electronic source that is fast, trustable,katest mode of communication
    actually there should depend on advertisement and the ads should give income to the service provider. so they can attach ads in every mail they should contact the corporate of varius state and egion in the world they have still not concentrated in this topic
  • No, no, no. Email should stay free. This is just a way for AOL, Yahoo, and even Microsoft to make more money. The sender and recipient already pay for email with the cost of the hardware and software necessary. As the article says, AOL and Yahoo already have spam filters. So why pay for email? Where will it end? Today businesses, tomorrow the individual?

    And the argument that this measure would help compliance with the law is bogus. Companies in the UK are rightly free from resitrictions on sending email to other companies.

    In addition, where there is a pre-existing relationship with a consumer customer, the company presumably would still get charged. How is that going to help anyone? It just means that the additional costs that a company will have in communicating with its customers will get passed on the the customer in the form of higher prices. Therefore it is bad for consumers as well as for businesses. Of course, if you are AOL or Yahoo then you will not have this additional cost.

    Also, this would not help to keep email lists "clean". The money would be better spent on software for performing this function. Charging for email would only take money away from this budget.
  • Who couldn't see this coming years ago?? AOL,MSN,Earthlink, Yahoo, bought the Can-Spam bill with their lobbyists, plain and simple. Follow the money trail.

    The isp's long term plan was to squeeze out incoming commercial e-mail, and replace it with paid e-mail. That day has just about come.

    For example, a Hotmail account I've had for years used to get dozens of emails/day. Now it gets zero, except for Hotmail's "partner" - read : their advertisers.

    Sorry public, you've been hoodwinked. You think they cared about you and your spam problem? Then why doesn't the can-spam bill allow for us to sue spammers??

    Face it, AOL and the other big isp's own the net. Their lobbyists bought and paid for the can-spam bill, and now they control what e-mails you'll receive. And it'll only be paid ones in your inbox.
  • Let's all open e-mail accounts with crazy names, like

    There is no way a spammer will come up with that variation. Once you start receiving emails, you have proof your isp sold your address and is spamming you.

    Class action lawsuit anyone?

    Will AOL , MSN, and Yahoo execs get 9 years in prison like Jeremy Jaynes? More time than rapists, child molesters and murderers? The same amount they ask for when they sue other "spammers"? Why not?
  • It sounds as if AOL are selling a license to SPAM. The main people who are going to pay for this are the spammers themselves and given how low the standards are for the people maintaining lists of email addresses I don't see how AOL can stop this.

    If I subscribed to AOL the first thing that I would do would be to create a mail filter to delete all of these paid emails.
  • I don't know the specifics of the AOL plan, but I'm willing to pay a little to get my email through. Too much legit mail is being deleted by AOL and others. And if it also cuts back on the amount of spam I get, all the better. - I do hope though that the system includes good whitelisting so that I don't always have to pay to communicate with associates I already have a relationship with.
  • err. arn't these comments spam
  • Reckon paid for consumer email may well be sensible, only have to charge a fraction of a penny per email to make spam extremely difficult. The cost to your average consumer would be very low

    Email like anything in life that is 'free' just gets abused, I really dont understand why people think the internet is some hippy playground, its a commercial infrastructure run to make money either directly or indirectly, just like the roads/railways are
  • How can they guarantee that the mail will be delivered? What when the email goes into a local email server on the home network and the spam filter kills it off, it still won't get to the user who should see it.

    I can't see how this would work reliably, and surely the point of the current laws is to get rid of spam altogether, not have "officially sanctioned" spam...
  • Once again we see someone slighting the originators of the Internet as hippies and completely missing the point.

    AOL et al are just doing what they do best. Making money. It is not our duty to make that easier. This "Penny a mail" approach has been discussed to and fro for decades. No really, it is not a new idea. It is certainly not AOL's idea.

    Previous informed discussion has concluded that this approach would prove absolutely disasterous to the mechanisms of the Internet. The charging of a penny a pop in itself is exactly that. It is the implications of the charge and the spin-off implications of the implications, where one must look.

    At the moment, we own the Internet. We get to use it in any way we see fit. This is how the spammers get a foot in in the first place. I run a mail/web/DNS server and I can choose what route I use to send mail to another server. I usually use an encrypted point-to-point connection for other servers like mine. The ISP supplies me with bandwidth and a fixed IP address; nothing more. If this sort of measure were to go ahead, this would very likely become impossible.

    Remember, it was the US military that decided that the Internet would be a mechanism that functioned as self contained islands of functionality that can communicate to other such islands under their own steam. This makes it extremely resilient to failures or indeed attacks. Lets leave it that way and work out how to do this without losing the basic design.
  • I don't quiet get the deal here. A company who wants to legitimately send e-mails to it's readers (ZDnet is an example). has to pay AOL to send to AOL customers and to Yahoo for Yahoo customers, all those who don't use either of these services would be free.

    A legit company ( Zdnet) wouldn't or shouldn't use SPAM techniques to send it's e-mails. They would have all the correct from domains, to a proper e-mail address no spam methods needed?
    So I ask again? what's the deal here? Just a quick buck on the 'we'll help get rid of spam' bandwagon.

    As for me, I get over 4000 of the blighers a month, thank good for a Gmail account that cleans up 99.99% of them.
  • As was quoted before 'At the moment, we own the Internet'

    This is the hippy rubbish that i'm talking about , we no more own the internet than we own the roads or the telephone systems. Goverments (and to a extent tax payers) and corperations own the internet. We just own/rent individual locations on it.

    Not saying paying for email is a good thing, but in the end of the day money makes the world (which includes the internet) turn, not good intentions
  • I do not agree to this proposal as it is not a necessity in any way, the subscriber having already paid his ISP to connect to the net and has either paid for a browser or using a free browser. If AOL and YAHOO are planning this for their own users then that is a matter for them as they would soon find out.
    Someone at the ICO welcomes them move - but it is not there concern or business and they should not make comment on the matter.
    Perhaps it would be a better idea if all those public servants who use the taxpayer funded computers and networks to send/forward their large numbers of private emails every working day were made to pay then we might get improved efficiency and a financial rebate. And, as a spin off, I get a lot forwarded to me that have been through so many public service departments it is unbelievable and a wonder that a good day's work is done by the senders.
  • If the first one hundred messages per day were free, I see no reason why individuals should have any objections to paid email. This is so because spam is causing an enormous loss of time nation wide, and time is money. Furthermore, it could be limited to commercial mail, which should reduce objections even further.
    Some might object that it is a slippery slope, but trust me, congress does not need any grease on the slope to make a move (I say that spam should be taxed, not just AOL instituted).
  • Does anyone really think that this is not just a glitzed up opportunity for corporates to pass yet another cost onto the consumer?
    On the surface it may seem that it is limited to companies spamming, however it will not be long before the costs are passed on and we find ourselves paying for yet another service.. Maybe I am too cynical, however it is seen all too often in modern times