The Eurovision spam contest

Nations must work together to combat electronic crime. A good reason to keep their own houses in order would be a good start

The world looks very different from cyberspace. We've all got our own ideas of the places where the rule of law is lopsided - America with its gun crime, China with its one-party state - but Sweden? Civilised to a fault, its only sins to date have been Abba and flat-pack furniture. Yet Symantec's latest survey of international cybercrime hotspots put Sweden in second place, behind the US and before China, as a home of compromised servers that focus online crime. Fifteen percent of the global total live in the land of lakes and pickled herring, say the numbers.

It's wise to pause before taking this as gospel. Symantec has its own agenda in promoting this data. There's nothing wrong with that - it's a commercial company with legitimate interests and expertise in the area. But it does make it hard for others to analyse and account for any commercial bias: it would be far better to hand the task to an independent organisation with a clear non-commercial remit. Likewise, online crime is too important to leave to purely commercial interests to tackle, much as large companies enjoy assuming quasi-judicial roles. Creating, funding and overseeing an international organisation dedicated to internet crime statistics is always going to be difficult.

Yet there is a useful principle that can guide us: the polluter pays. Sweden is one of the most advanced democracies in the world, peacable, rich and notably non-corrupt. It is not asking too much for it to take on a proportionate level of effort in controlling the cyber-pollution it harbours, especially when the other nations in its league are also exceptionally well resourced. Such an approach would encourage countries by rewarding them for results: if Sweden drops from fifteen percent of crime hosting to five, then its commitments will be cut by two thirds. Not that the total budget for the organisation need be huge: the work's currently being done by a single company not noted for research overspend.

If the countries of the world agree to set up such an organisation, it need have no powers beyond research, no function other than a public commitment to solving the problem and a tool towards that solution. It would be a bit like the Eurovision Song Contest, except that the winners don't have to pay for next time. Sweden, with its twin traditions of neutrality and liberalism, is in the ideal position to propose and instigate this idea. Other nations, already keenly aware of such interesting Swedish innovations as the Pirate Bay file sharing syndicate, may be more than happy to award the country dix points for the effort.