August 17, 2003 · Lessig
So the legislative fight against spam is going no where. There will probably be a bill, but it has been designed simply to make sure that large traditional companies are still free to send unsolicited commercial email. Senator McCain has added a nice innovation that will make it easier to hold people responsible for UCE. But the concerted effort to avoid labeling will mean in the end, the legislation does not work.
Which has led me to a bit of code which I had intended to resist: challenge-response. My mail now goes through Mailblocks.com (which annoyingly has a pop-up to warn people away from any browser except Microsoft’s, and which even more annoyingly is enforcing patent protection against other challenge response systems) but so far, it has worked.
“Worked.” “Worked” means I don’t have literally hundreds of emails in my inbox each morning that are junk. “Worked” means I don’t therefore have to delete 95% of the emails in my inbox because they are junk. “Worked” means I therefore don’t erase emails which were not junk but which one inevitably will when so much is junk.
But “worked” also means that the first time you (humans out there, not bots) send me email, you’ve got to go through a web-based ritual to authenticate that you’re human. Of all the mandated authentication our society requires these days, this seems about the most harmless. Indeed, it might even help.