Re: Junk mail and rotting web (SPAM)

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Wed, 03 Feb 1999 16:00:41 -0600

I cannot see any possible benefit of legislating netiquette that outweighs the near-certain disaster. Information must flow freely or it will not flow at all. That includes spam, and adult sites, and abortion death threats, and child pornography, because outlawing these things would accomplish nothing; no more than outlawing drugs has decreased the number of drug users, or outlawing encryption will prevent terrorists from typing in the source code from "Applied Cryptography".

What it would accomplish is to increase transaction costs and prevent information from flowing freely. It would have the same effect as a tax on downloading Web pages. It would make every ISP liable for not keeping up in the technological arms race that is certain to begin.

If spam technology becomes a serious annoyance, users will result to serious filter technology to keep it out. Legislation would be futile and ineffective, except in the "effect" of creating laws or transaction costs that would cripple legal technological advancement.

This is a classic case of Yudkowsky's Third Threat:
"Attempting to suppress a technology only inflicts more damage."

--         Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.