China joins spam talks

Global talks aiming in part to reduce spam are taking place in London this week

European and Asian policymakers have been meeting in London this week to discuss effective ways for the regions to work together. Top of their list is tackling the problem of spam which continues to hinder ecommerce and plague businesses worldwide.

Among those taking part in the two-day ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) event, hosted by the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), are representatives of the DTI itself; EU member states; Asian partner countries including China, Japan and Korea; members of the technology industry; and anti-spam groups such as Spamhaus.

Jean-Jacques Sahel, head of international communications policy at the DTI, told ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com: "This event will enable us to look at how spam has increasingly become a criminal problem, with emails carrying viruses and Trojans which lead to problems such as phishing."

It is the presence of Chinese representation who the UK department of trade and industry admits have been conspicuous by their absence from previous talks, which raises the most cause for optimism.

China remains one of the largest contributors to the worldwide spam epidemic -- second only to the US.

Richard Cox from Spamhaus said countries such as Russia and China still act as "havens for spammers" and, although the US produces most spam, Asia is increasingly playing a part in the routing of bulk mail.

The DTI's Sahel told silicon.com: "In the past, China has not been present at events such as this for a variety of reasons but they have now signed up to the London action plan and our endgame now becomes to work closely with China as well as other smaller Asian countries to look at possible solutions."

Sahel warned that "spammers can move around and change location" and said the co-operation of all Asian countries is therefore required to make future initiatives effective and limit the places left to run and hide.

"India could come into the top 10 list of world spammers very soon if we aren't careful," he added.

Michael Colao, director of information strategy at investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, has little time for much of the anti-spam regulation which has been drawn up and criticised the government's lack of tech savvy.

Speaking in London at the recent Computer and Internet Crime Conference, Colao said governments have responded to the problem of spam "with a variety of bad legislation".

"Governments don't really understand technology as a rule," he added.

The DTI's Sahel said he is aware of the work yet to be done and acknowledged a culture to date of talking about problems without actually coming up with workable solutions.

"There have been far too many conferences like this already and there has been too much talking," he said.

"There is a good feeling about this conference but we're not going to stop anything over night. We have to follow up on our discussions and start to act on our findings," he said.

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