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Faster than speeding spam - 2004's Internet Hero

While the Home Office guns for its third consecutive Internet Villain title, the DTI looks set to run away with the Hero award
Written by Matt Loney, Contributor
This year's nominees for the ISPA Internet Hero award illustrate the importance that spam, laws and a bit of enthusiasm play in the Internet industry.

Among the nominees are Steve Linford of Spamhaus, for work on spam; the Law commission and, separately, Mary Tait from the DTI, and the Information Commissioner, for work on laws relating to the Internet, and e-commerce minister Steven Timms, for his enthusiasm for e-commerce part of his role.

Timms is likely to be relieved by the nomination, even if he does not win: in October, ZDNet UK revealed that Timms has been so overburdened with responsibilities that he is being forced to put key IT issues such as broadband availability and electronic business on the back burner. The revelations came from sources within the DTI, where Timms works, who said there were deep concerns about the effect a June reshuffle, which saw Timms take on the energy portfolio in addition to his duties as minister for e-commerce and competitiveness, had on his workload.

Nonetheless, his efforts have not gone unnoticed. Announcing the nominations, ISPA said Timms was nominated for "for the enthusiasm he demonstrates in his role". A DTI spokesman said: "The minister knows and loves the subject of technology, and he's exceedingly knowledgeable. With BT's work on increasing ADSL coverage, the three millionth broadband user getting connected, and the creation of the regional aggregation boards to drive the availability of rural broadband, it's clear that IT issues are still an integral part of his portfolio".

Also from the DTI, Mary Tait was nominated for "for maintaining a balanced approach and striving for a joined-up approach to the variety of issues affecting the Internet industry in the E-Commerce Directive, the new Data Protection Directive and Communications Act." Tait, who has had a relatively low profile role, was one of the architects of the government's anti-spam laws. These laws have been criticised for being ineffective -- because so much spam comes from overseas -- and also for not protecting business email addresses. However, her nomination indicates that the DTI did not do as bad a job as some have suggested.

"It's always pleasing when our work is recognised, especially by an industry body that understands the issues we're dealing with," said a spokesman.

However, the popular vote for work on spam is more likely to go to Steve Linford and Spamhaus, an organisation that tracks the Internet's worst spammers, and has been among the critics of the UK spam laws. Linford was nominated "for educating people about spam, endeavouring to thwart spammers, and urging the US to reject the opt-out approach to spam legislation," said ISPA.

Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, is nominated "for demonstrating a pragmatic and user-friendly approach, not just paying lip service to such a goal," and the Law Commission for "for calling for a change to the law relating to defamation on the Internet".

The Internet Services Providers' Association's awards will be presented on 19 February at the Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square, London.

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