May 1, 2003 · Lessig
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren today introduced her REDUCE Spam Act. That Act is in part based upon the idea that I have bet my job on. This has led some friends to write that they hope the law is not passed — some because they believe it won’t work, some because they don’t like this or any regulation. To the first group, I appreciate the concern, but remain unworried. To the second, I understand the concerns, but remain convinced.
The general idea of the statute is that spammers must label UCE, and if they don’t, then the law enables a bounty system to pay people who hunt down those who fail properly to label. I’ve been getting lots of questions about how this would work, and as many are similar, it would obviously help to post a FAQ. It would be great to get more questions beyond the first wave, and a FAQ would certainly help.
This final draft does have a nice modification that was suggested by a particularly skeptical friend. The label requirement initially is a simple ADV: in the subject line. There are obvious problems with mandated protocols, and so the modification requires either an ADV: or “an identification that complies with the standards adopted by the Internet Engineering Task Force for identification of unsolicited commercial electronic mail messages.” This is a nice modification that both creates an incentive for the development of other protocols, but vests that process within a body that so far has resisted capture. I was originally worried that any industry standards group would be open to capture. But I have lots of confidence that the IETF will be able to suss out spammers.
The key to this idea is, as Congresswoman Lofgren puts it, that the Act would enlist a bunch of 18 year olds in the battle against non-complying spammers. “Between the 18 year olds and the spamsters,” as she puts it, “I’ll bet on the 18 year olds.”