A week after a Hong Kong court freed a self-confessed spammer, the head of a leading UK ISP whose email system was crippled by spam last week, warns there is no end in sight to the problem.
The Hong Kong man confessed to running a spamming campaign against various Chinese businesses, and was acquitted after a court ruled that thousands of unsolicited emails amounted to reasonable advertising.
Peter Venmore, director of Global Internet, was hit by 65,000 unsolicited emails advertising pornography on August 5 and says the ruling will only make the situation worse. "I think this is always going to be a problem... it's probably going to get worse. Especially after the [Hong Kong] ruling.."
Venmore believes the only way for ISPs to deal with spam is to bite the bullet and co-operate with their sworn enemies. "ISPs are bitter enemies normally," he says. "But we have to work together on this sort of thing and have a common voice."
Matthew Hare, of the ISP Community Internet, and a counsel member of the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), agrees that ISPs will have to learn to work in harmony. "We are already working together but that will certainly have to continue," he says. Hare adds that the current international legal situation makes it increasingly difficult for spam to be controlled. "The Internet blows-up international legal differences. While you can bring an action against someone for spamming you in America, it is often very different elsewhere."
Hare also protests that current UK law falls short of protecting people against spam. Proposals for the forthcoming E-Commerce Bill are that spam should be treated like unsolicited telemarketing and that only those who sign up to an "anti-spam register" should be immune. But Hare says that when a number of UK ISPs metwith the UK's telecommunications watchdog, Oftel, to discuss the Bill two weeks ago, this was a hotly debated issue. "We at ISPA believe it should be opt-in instead. Users should not automatically have to pay for collecting unwanted mail," he says.
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