Who Will Stop the Spam?

Over at Slate, there’s a good piece by Steven Waldman about the political rewards waiting to be claimed by the first Presidential candidate with a plan to stop spam.

I think he’s spot on in this. There is no more important application on the Internet than e-mail. Period. If all we had gotten out of the Internet was e-mail — no Web, no Usenet, no Web Services, etc. — that alone would have profoundly changed society. Think how reliant you are on e-mail for communication. Remember how things were ten or fifteen years ago? See the difference?

Spam, however (or, as it’s more formally known, “unsolicited commercial e-mail” or UCE), threatens to choke off that most vital application. Already we all have to plow through volumes of it every time we get to our e-mail clients. People often have to change their address because they receive so much spam they can no longer pick out the good mail from the bad. Why should they have to do that? Why shouldn’t I be able to be at the same address for life? Why is the burden on me to accommodate these fly-by-night scam artists?

There are lots of plans out there to combat spam, some good, some not so good. But Waldman’s point is that what’s missing on this issue is leadership. Someone needs to take charge, make it a priority, and get it done. Whoever does that — whoever articulates a plan, carries it out, and gets results — is going to have removed a major headache from the lives of many millions of Americans; and it’s hard to think of a better recipe for political success than that.