[Mailman-Users] Goodmail spells doom for mailing lists?

Brad Knowles brad at stop.mail-abuse.org
Sat Mar 4 15:01:27 CET 2006

At 5:53 PM -0800 2006-03-03, Dave Crocker wrote:

>  So along comes a few companies who are trying to find ways to let
>  receive-side ISPs outsource the job of assuring that trustable bulk
>  mail is, in fact, trusted.  (That is, the receiver wants this stuff
>  and these services are provding ways to assure that they get it.)

	This situation is rife with cost and revenue externalities. 
Moreover, it is not even opt-out -- it is mandatory for all AOL 
users.  Fundamentally, these are the two worst aspects of spam, and 
by extension virtually all types of abuse.

	Your sole protection here is that AOL and Goodmail both promise 
that they will play nice.  History teaches us that anyone in this 
kind of situation who promises not to abuse their power is, well ... 
a fool.

	Let's look again at the general situation.  X will provide 
guaranteed access to their members for the benefit of Y and the 
customers of Y, and in return X is paid money by Y.

	Substitute "AOL" for X and "Goodmail" for Y, and you get 
precisely the situation they are moving forward with, regardless of 
all possible complaints -- see 

	Now, substitute "families in Eastern Europe" for X, and "pimps" 
for Y, and you get sex slaves who are forced to perform as 
prostitutes.  And we all know what kind of promises are made to these 
people before they are taken from their families.

	AOL is making their members bend over and drop their pants, and 
then will look the other way when Goodmail comes along with clients 
who pay good money to abuse those members.  That's it, plain and 

	Okay, so maybe this paid spam stuff isn't quite as bad as being 
turned into a sex slave, but the mechanisms are precisely the same -- 
your sole protection is the word of the people who are making their 
members accessible, and the word of the people who would be using 
(abusing) those members.

	If AOL wants to convince anyone that this is actually a real 
benefit, they need to do at least two things:

		1.  Remove the cost/revenue externalities.  If any money is to be
			paid for the benefit of guaranteed access to members
			mailboxes, it should be the members themselves.

			AOL should get increased revenue through making their members
			happier, and therefore keeping existing members for longer,
			and getting newer members faster than they had in the past.

		2.  Make the feature opt-in instead of opt-out or mandatory.

			If it really is good for members, they will flock to it in

	Now, if they really want to benefit their members (and 
indirectly, benefit themselves), they need to give those members a 
way to charge considerably more than the usual and customary fee, if 
they should be hit with a particularly heinous paid spam -- a factor 
of a thousand, or more.  This would force the senders to seriously 
think twice about abusing their enhanced access.  Of course, AOL 
would never do this and Goodmail would never agree to this, because 
the paid spammers would refuse to get whacked with those kinds of 
potential charges.

	You will note that AOL is promising that their new policy won't 
hurt non-profit organizations, because they will pay for the costs 
incurred.  But this places the one party most likely to abuse the 
system as the one party that decides who they will be nice to -- yet 
another situation ripe for abuse.  AOL gets to decide who is a worthy 
non-profit organization, and everyone else can just kiss their ass.

	Take a look at what the police in Kenya are doing, and what the 
government in Darfur has turned a blind eye towards, if you need 
current examples of what happens when there isn't anyone around to 
watch the watchers.

	AOL hasn't quite gone that far (at least not yet, so far as we 
know), but they're certainly going down that path.  And they're lying 
through their teeth about the real reasons why and what will happen 
as a result, and they're going to force all their members to go along 
with this idea whether they like it or not.  And AOL will be just the 
first in a long line of companies to jack into this new and 
exceptionally profitable revenue stream.

Brad Knowles, <brad at stop.mail-abuse.org>

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little
temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

     -- Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), reply of the Pennsylvania
     Assembly to the Governor, November 11, 1755

  LOPSA member since December 2005.  See <http://www.lopsa.org/>.

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