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Using Uncensored Communication Channels to Divert Spam Traffic

Benjamin Chiao () and Jeffrey Mackie-Mason

No 06-20, Working Papers from NET Institute

Abstract: We offer a microeconomic model of the two-sided market for the dominant form of spam: bulk, unsolicited, and commercial advertising email. We adopt an incentive-centered design approach to develop a simple, feasible improvement to the current email system using an uncensored communication channel. Such a channel could be an email folder or account, to which properly tagged commercial solicitations are routed. We characterize the circumstances under which spammers would voluntarily move much of their spam into the open channel, leaving the traditional email channel dominated by person-to-person, non-spam mail. Our method follows from observing that there is a real demand for unsolicited commercial email, so that everyone can be made better off if a channel is provided for spammers to meet spamdemanders. As a bonus, the absence of filtering in an open channel restores to advertisers the incentive to make messages truthful, rather than to disguise them to avoid filters. We show that under certain conditions all email recipients are better off when an open channel is introduced. Only recipients wanting spam will use the open channel enjoying the less disguised messages, and for all recipients the satisfaction associated with desirable mail received increases, and dissatisfaction associated with both undesirable mail received and desirable mail filtered out decreases.

Date: 2006-08, Revised 2006-10
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