Friday, December 24, 2010

Credit card companies can kill spam

Wikileaks has polarised many people, especially with its latest round of revelations.

There are those who believe the site and its release of confidential documents is evil, potentially exposing innocent people to great risk and embarrassing governments all over the world.

There are others who believe it produces a long-needed level of transparency within government that none in power are prepared to deliver on a voluntary basis.

No doubt, the argument will continue for some time to come -- but there is one positive aspect to come from the latest chapter of this saga.

When PayPal and various credit card companies withdrew their services in handling payments and donations to Wikileaks, the set an important precedent. They have shown that they are not just a "carrier" of funds, they can also be a censor.

Why is this important?

Well for too long, our email boxes have been laden with spam promoting all kinds of fake and dubious products. Pitching everything from herbal weight-loss tablets to creams and potions guaranteed to increase the size of your manly bits, these emails have been the bane of our lives for too long.

A great deal of time and effort has been invested in creating clever software that automatically filters-out the spam that would otherwise clog our inboxes and each year, huge sums of money are wasted because of the need to provision bandwidth that is simply wasted delivering that spam to unwilling recipients.

Well perhaps now Visa, Mastercard and PayPal can come to our rescue.

By actively moving to halt the flow of funds to Wikileaks, these companies have shown that they have the ability and willingness to step in and try to intervene in activities that *may* be illegal -- even if that's only a suspicion and not proven.

So right now, I'm expecting them to step up to the plate and immediately stop providing merchant services to all these shady ventures and products that are promoted by way of spam.

If it's good enough to deny their services to Wikileaks then it must also be good enough to cut off all those spammers and others who regularly breach anti-spam laws. After all, there's no point in promoting a product by way of spam if you immediately lose the ability to accept payments; is there?

Visa, Mastercard and PayPal claim that the actions they took over Wikileaks were not politically motivated but simply part of their obligation not to provide services to those who engage in criminal activities. Well perhaps they ought to bone up on their lawbooks and take note of the fact that just about all Western nations have now banned spam by way of legislation.

So, here's to a 2011 in which we should be able to rely on the banks, PayPal and credit card companies to really "deal to" spam, or explain their apparent hypocrisy to the rest of us.

Merry Christmas all, and a Happy New Year.

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