The Spam Diaries

News and musings about the fight against spam.
 by Edward Falk

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Another Final Ultimate Solution to the Spam Problem?

I just read a fascinating article in IT Observer. It profiles the work of Nobel Prize winner Ronald Coase's work on how property rights affect the functioning of an economy. In particular, Coase shows that when property rights are well defined, an equilibrium is reached between polluters and those harmed by the pollution.

In the case of spam, spam reigns out of control because the ownership of the internet has not been well defined. The assumption is that if the ownership of the internet could be established, then spam would be reduced to reasonable levels.

I'm not sure that I buy this theory though. Coase's model operates under the assumption that the polluter can be identified and held accountable. There was a time on the internet where a net abuser could always be tracked down, and net abuse was negligible. It wasn't until the advent of better cloaking techniques and — more importantly — negligent ISPs that spam started spining out of control.


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