Here's the proposition:
Everybody pay one penny to send an outgoing email.
This will discourage spam, which consumes 33 terawatt hours of electricity every year. A spam email sent to a million people would cost $10,000.
No, you say? You don't want to pay to send email?
I hear you. But what if it was voluntary?
But wait, you say. If it's voluntary, then how will it discourage spammers? They don't have to pay anything if it's voluntary.
True. In fact, that's the POINT.
If there's a code embedded in emails that are paid-for, then those emails will get a free pass through spam blocking software. Then spam-blocking software can be adjusted to scan unpaid email, making it easier to catch actual spam. In essence, paying one penny for an email creates a special class of email — "certified" email, if you want — which spam blocking software can ignore. Then, spam blockers have a better change of identifying actual spam.
Wait, you say. This sounds fishy. This sounds like a way for Yahoo to make money.
Nope, says Yahoo. The money collected will go to a charity. Every penny. A charity you choose.
So, instead of donating $100 to the animal sheltter, you essentially "buy" (prepay) $100 worth of one-cent certified emails (that's 10,000 emails). You write and send an email as you normally would, but behind the scenes, a penny is deducted from that account, and the email becomes "certified".
Sound better now? You're not really out of pocket (assuming you were going to donate some money in the first place).
Yahoo is developing a system for this, called CentPay. If enough volunteers do this, you can help stop spam AND you donate to charity. But again, it is only effective if enough people voluntarily do this.
Do you think they will?