Trivia

Hard

In 1999, The UN Proposed Taxing What Computer-Related Thing?

CPUs
Bandwidth
RAM
Email
A general and generic email logo.
Pranav Kadu/Wikimedia

Answer: Email

In 1999, the United Nations proposed a novel way of bringing internet access to underdeveloped nations that immediately provoked a public outcry and congressional opposition: taxing email.

The premise of the plan, which would of course have needed to be voluntarily adopted by participating nations, would have levied a tax of one U.S. cent per 100 emails sent by a person or organization, and that this pool of money would have been used to deploy and maintain internet infrastructure in underdeveloped nations.

As you can imagine, the proposal was immediately attacked on the grounds that not only was it presently unenforceable, but that to even enforce it in the first place would have required some governing body to monitor email transmission volumes and report them for taxation.

It was the kind of proposal that didn’t sit well with those focused on growing the internet and maintaining user privacy and security, or those who feared it becoming a pork barrel program administered by bureaucrats that would do very little to help the poor people of the world. The proposal was dropped shortly after it was first published.

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