Spamhaus under attack from UK spammers

A law that the government said would clamp down on those who send millions of unsolicited junk emails is instead causing more hassle for anti-spam campaigners

Pioneering anti-spam organisation The Spamhaus Project has begun receiving threats from spammers, many of whom appear to have moved into Britain following the establishment of controversial UK laws that ostensibly outlaw the spamming of personal email addresses.

Spamhaus founder Steve Linford revealed told the Openwave messaging anti-abuse conference in London this week that this legislation has had a counterproductive effect. "For the first time we have very tenacious spamming gangs setting up in the UK," said Linford. "And, for the first time, we have spammers threatening us with legal action."

Spamhaus tracks spamming operations across the world and operates a blacklist that helps ISPs to block some of the many millions of unsolicited junk emails they try and send every day.

Linford explained that spammers are now claiming that Spamhaus has no legal right to block them. Their argument, he said, revolves around the claim that the UK government has introduced the privacy and electronic communications regulations that explicitly bans some forms of spam, and that because they are acting within this law their activities are explicitly permitted.

When the government introduced the privacy and electronic communications regulations last December, it said they made it an offence for a UK company to send junk email or text messages, unless the recipient is an existing customer or has given their permission to receive such material. Firms who flout the law face a £5,000 fine for each breach.

However, this only covered individual email accounts and not corporate ones.

Linford claimed that the legislation fails to even protect individuals, because it is so difficult and time-consuming for the authorities to take action. The Information Commissioners office has already said publicly that it wants stronger powers and recently admitted that it didn't expect to bring any spammers to court this year.

The government, though, has so far refused to make changes to the law. The Department of Trade and Industry recently said that it would wait for the legislation to "bed in", a process that is likely to take several months.