Improve Internet Health with a Microsoft Tax?

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 02, 2010

Somebody better tell Microsoft that it's still March, because the suggestion of an "Internet usage tax" to fight Windows-powered botnets must be an April Fool's joke let out a month too early.

According to Robert McMillan's piece on ComputerWorld, Scott Charney (Microsoft's veep for Trustworthy Computing) suggests that one way to fund fighting botnets is to tax users. "You could say it's a public safety issue and do it with general taxation." You could, but let's not.

Few are likely to be impressed or take seriously a suggestion that a "general taxation" should be used to fix a problem that Microsoft is more than partly responsible for, especially when the company reaps staggering profits on its Windows licenses in the first place. The folks running Windows have already paid their tax, and users on other OSes aren't (for the most part) contributing to the botnets in the first place. I've grown out of the knee-jerk Microsoft bashing phase, but this is hands-down one of the silliest suggestions that has come out of any company in a while.

Some of Charney's other suggestions, such as public education, however, have some merit. Rather than taxing the ISP-using public to help control botnets, maybe Microsoft should be taxed to create Public Service Announcements (PSAs) to educate users on the perils of malware, and the fact that users have choices when it comes to operating systems. A tobacco-style tax aimed at Microsoft products to solve the problem might have some merit.

The idea of Microsoft-funded PSAs advertising Linux as a way to avoid Internet-spread malware sounds much more reasonable than taxing all users to shore up defenses against Windows-based botnets. And it would give Microsoft an added incentive to work harder to solve the problem. If and when Windows-based botnets are a thing of the past, then the company could stop paying for the PSAs. At least that makes more sense than a general taxation for end users.

Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years covering IT. Formerly the openSUSE Community Manager for Novell, Brockmeier has written for Linux Magazine, Sys Admin, Linux Pro Magazine, IBM developerWorks,,, Linux Weekly News, ZDNet, and many other publications. Brockmeier is also a FLOSS advocate and participates in several projects, including GNOME as the PR team lead. You can reach Zonker at and follow him on Twitter.