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22 April, 2004

A real barrier to spam?

There's an interesting idea in the Guardian, suggesting a way to combat spammers: introduce a charge for sending e-mail.

My immediate reaction was very negative - I'm not prepared to pay an arbitrary financial charge to a government agency or commercial company, and there are both administrative/technical issues and moral ones of social exclusion.

Yet I read on, and found that an elegantly simple solution was proposed: rather than invoke a financial charge, slow down the process of sending an e-mail by forcing the computer to perform an additional calculation, such as generate a digital signature before sending each message.  For individual e-mails, this might manifest as a pause lasting under a second, but when multiplied to the volume of a spammer's mail shot, a million individual pauses would make the exercise far more difficult.

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