Europeans Say The US Is To Blame For Spam

from the thanks dept

Just who is responsible for spam? Apparently, some European politicians think it’s all the fault of American politicians who refuse to enact “opt-in” anti-spam legislation. Of course, this makes the assumption that any such anti-legislation would actually make a difference. It also removes the real blame from the spammers themselves. While it still seems unlikely that any legislative solution will do any good (and many would end up causing more problems), the UK politicians are trying to create a “worldwide summit” on spam. They point out that the only way the issue will be tackled is with cooperation worldwide – something that is pretty unrealistic to expect. What happens when random small country doesn’t agree to the same anti-spam laws? Do we invade them for the sake of protecting our in-boxes?

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Comments on “Europeans Say The US Is To Blame For Spam”

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dorpus says:


Developed nations are cracking down on spam through legislation or more enforcement. The USA is in the process of outlawing telemarketing. VoIP telephony is taking off, thought to eventually replace land lines. And jobs are exporting to India.

If we put (2 + 2i) together, couldn’t we have a future in which hyper-agressive Indian telemarketers keep calling people up through VoIP connections? The more you say no, the more they keep calling up.

Noel Duffy says:

Anti-spam legislation

As a European (Ireland) I cannot understand why Americans insist that legislation cannot help in the fight against spam. I agree that the current measure being considered by Congress are all based on opt-out and are thus flawed, but laws based on opt-in, such as those chosen by the EU, Australia, and, I think, Japan, can make a difference. 98% of the worlds spam comes from around 200 hard-core spammers operating in America. They cannot be arrested because spamming is technically legal.
Once opt-in legislation is in place these people cannot continue to operate without facing arrest. It is possible but unlikely that they will all emigrate to Russia or China. I think most of them will drift into some other scam. Yes, they may be able to set up companies in Russia that do their spamming for them, but there will always be a money trail that can be followed.
If we are serious about beating spam then we have to make it illegal in as many countries as possible. This is a necessary first step in raising the cost of entry into the spamming business.

Rick Colosimo (user link) says:

Re: Anti-spam legislation

Arrested? Wow, you must get an awful lot of spam if you think that the act of sending emails should land someone in jail. Something can be illegal/unlawful without an incarceration penalty being attached. Fines and civil lawsuits work quite well. Even though we’re pretty unhappy about this type of speech, and since there is some measure of validity (although probably not enough) to spammers’ First Amendment claims, I think that jail time would be grossly out of proportion.

Yeah, I know, that free speech thing is such a pain. As much as I’m fond of the UK, there are some dramatic holes in the civil liberties construct that we Americans just don’t go for.

Finally, if your email is jammed with “American” spam (and I’m assuming you’re assuming), just shut it off. Don’t take emails from those systems. Go whitelist and deal with the side effects Mike describes and others.

Noel Duffy says:

Re: Re: Anti-spam legislation

Firstly, there is no measure of validity to spammers “First Amendment” claims. You do not have the right to force your message into someones inbox no matter how well-intentioned you are.

In other words, you have the right to speak but not the right to force others to listen.

Secondly, fines and civil lawsuits don’t work as Alan Ralsky and company are still operating.

Thirdly, it’s no longer just about email. What about all the people whose mail servers were hijacked to pump spam? Or what about the DSL users whose boxes have been trojaned to act as open proxies? What about Sobig.F which most people think was the work of spammers to create more proxies? What about hijacked netblocks?

How much network abuse does it take? Is it ok to jail that 18 year old gobshite who modified MSBlaster but to ignore the scammers and thieves that daily rob and defraud who knows how many people?

Rick Colosimo (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Anti-spam legislation

1. The First Amendment is broader than you think. I can mail you something, “forcing it into your [mail]box,” and that activity is protected. You and I may agree that spam falls on the other side of the line, but I think you have to agree that it’s not so dramatically different that no deep thinking is necessary. I can stand on a street corner and talk. Isn’t that forcing you to listen? I can follow you around and keep talking to you. Isn’t that forcing you to listen? I’m hoping you’ll see simply that the issue isn’t as clear as anyone would like to pretend it is.

2. Fines don’t work? We can increase fines and increase enforcement. If there’s any problem with the fines, it’s that the standards are unclear and proof is difficult. Neither of those problems gets brushed aside by criminal prosecution – they get worse.

3. Don’t confuse the issue. Separate acts are punishable by existing statutes. Fraud is fraud; calling it spam doesn’t help anyone figure out what’s going on. “Scammers and thieves” is not a description that maps directly onto “spammers.” If these issues are your real concern, then how does blocking a non-fraudulent, non-spoofed bulk commercial email solve them? This idea, of “tailoring” the restriction to match the harm, brings us full circle to the First Amendment. If you’re trying to kill a fly, the law doesn’t allow you (in the 1st Am. realm) to use an elephant gun.

w.h. (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Anti-spam legislation

Bill of rights applies only to “real people” not “ficticious people”, a.k.a. corporations. Most especially free speach.

The problem is that spammers are of the same veign as militiamen with their clinging to their personal interpretation of the laws.

The most dangerous thing that we can do is pass a law that allows for opt-out spam. That will legalize the whole industry and force us all to use whitelists. Nobody’s going to want to opt-out of every single spammer.

I think one potential avenue would be to define penalties for a specific group of cases where it’s unquestionable that nobody wants it and it’s not a full, verifiable opt-in. They would need to be careful to leave the rest of the situation as a legal gray area, which is what spam is currently. The rest of the cases could be either dealt with by the judicial system or by further legislation.

The problem is that the DMA is trying to do just that (Get the eggregious cases of spam), but make sure that their form of spam is now allowable so that they can spam while claiming that they aren’t spamming.

Really nice bunch. About as nice as the telemarketers, eh?

Patrick says:

Re: Re: Re: Anti-spam legislation

The primary problem with any legislation dealing with the internet and IT is that the people responsible for enacting laws have such a poor understanding of the field. Even if they consulted extensively with IT professionals, the more you nail down specifics, the easier it becomes to circumvent such legislation with a small change in your MO. The adage which is questionable for pornography is perfect for spam: I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.

Secondly, more legislation means less freedom for every one. I like being able to send e-mails to my clients detailing new products, services, et al. I believe this is information they are interested in seeing, and if some one were to complain I would certainly not send anything further. However, under pretty much any strict definition of spam this would qualify. I don’t want to be consulting a damn lawyer every time I send out some e-mail.

The point about network abuse is well taken, but this is an entirely different issue than robbing and defrauding people. Yes, spammers are clogging bandwidth with their electronic diarrhea, and we do not currently have any legal means to deter them. However, robbing and defrauding even the most gullible fools is already illegal, and can be prosecuted under existing statutes whether the con was perpetrated electronically or not. Likewise, people “hijacking” systems can also be dealt with; no additional laws neccesary.

Bottom line: why should we let a few bad apples ruin every one’s internet experience? I hate spam as much as any one. And I mean hate. But is legislation the answer? Even if we ignore the above points, how will laws be enforced? Spammers are adept at hiding the origination of their mail, assuming they even reside within a country that would enforce such laws or extradite. Honestly, I would rather have a few do-gooder vigilante hackers handling the problem… how about a SpammerAssassin variation?

Noel Duffy says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Anti-spam legislation

You raise a number of good points. Laws mandating opt-in are not a panacea – spam doesn’t disappear overnight when you pass such a law. But it does raise the bar – discouraging many from starting to spam and encouraging others to find another way to earn a living.
Regarding legislation and less freedom, all societies have to balance freedom with the needs of that society. For example, copyright laws remove a key freedom but most societies think the gains are worth it. I do not think many people will miss the freedom to bulk mail.
As to the point about robbing and defrauding, yes there are laws against the obvious forms. But all spam is theft, by which I mean that spammers shift the costs of sending mail onto ISPs and end-users. They are stealing our resources and our time. There are currently no laws against this.
Finally, the point about hackers handling the problem. I run two mail servers as part of my job and I can tell you now that there is no technical solution. Sure, things like DNS blacklists help, but only to a point. Tools like spamassassin help the end user, but they put more load on the mail server. Many of the companies now advertising anti-spam products are ignorant of the nature of the problem and propose solutions that only make the problem worse. An example are Challenge-Response systems.
To conclude, I think legislation is a must. Technological measure cannot solve this problem alone. Legislation can return control of his inbox to the user, forbidding companies and individuals from sending bulk mail to him without his permission. The worst spammers will ignore the laws, but at least society now has a means to pursue them.

red_eye says:

Re: Re: Anti-spam legislation

I get over 300 spams on the average day. I shouldn’t have to go to extrodanary measures to prevent having to see what someone else believes the have a right to cram in my face.
If you print it I can not touch it, if you air on the airwaves I dont have to turn on my device, but if I want to hear what aunt edna has to say I have to go through my email dont I?
It just like the national Do- Not call list it hadnt even been out a month before the first sweepstakes came up that said your entry into the sweepstakes provided all companies affiliated with the contest the right to call you regardless of your status on the do not call list.
Since a business has to pay for a copy of the do-not-call list whats to stop them from;
a. pay for a copy of the list of phone #’s
b. use a reverse lookup database to find the mailing address of every phone number on the list in the area code they purchaed
c. send them all a postcard saying they may have won something, call to find out and in the fine print include the fact that if they call they establish a business relationship with the sweepstakes company allowing them to call despoite the person being on the do no call list
d. company takes the list of people who called their 800 # and establishes business relations with other companies by selling it to them at a higer than average rate as its a database of numbers that other marketers cant call because the famly is on the do-not-call database.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Anti-spam legislation

You don’t think Opt-In raises other issues? How do you define the spam, for instance? People send emails to Techdirt every day asking us to link to them. These are unsolicited – we certainly didn’t “opt-in” for them. Some of those sites have ads/sell stuff, so they could be seen as commercial. So, we get these “unsolicted commercial emails” that we didn’t opt-in for.

When you put up the legal barrier like that, there are unintended legal consequences.

Noel Duffy says:

Re: Re: Anti-spam legislation

This is easy – I define spam as unsolicited BULK email. Period.
The mails you get requesting links aren’t bulk.
Problem solved. Home early for tea.
Seriously though – the problem with spam is that email as an advertising medium doesn’t scale. It doesn’t matter whether the spam message is commercial, religious, or political. Spam is content neutral. Or, as some in the anti-spam community put it, “It’s about consent, not content.”

Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

Only way to stamp out spam:

1. block all traffic out of Asia until they shut down their open relays and spam houses

2. make spammers liable if they spam you – i.e. if you receive spam, then the sender either pays $5000 or goes to jail for 5 years, no screwing around like the Do Not Call List.

3. jail all US spammers immediately

red_eye says:

They could be right

Trap Count
SpamAssassin 30,211
Infinite-Monkeys 5,071
SpamAssassin (timed out) 35
SpamAssassin (Message larger than max testing size) 17
Country Count
United States 15,416
Korea, Republic of 1,404
China 1,336
Canada 594
Brazil 469
Spain 233
Germany 216
United Kingdom 212
Mexico 182
Argentina 166
Japan 137
Australia 136
France 134
Taiwan 132
Hong Kong 111
Italy 100
Sweden 84
Russian Federation 76
Netherlands 71
Chile 69
India 66
Venezuela 59
Poland 44
Israel 40
Switzerland 40
Turkey 38
Uruguay 34
Europe 30
Malaysia 30
Austria 30
Denmark 28
Belgium 28
Finland 28
Colombia 27
Portugal 22
Thailand 22
Panama 21
Philippines 19
Czech Republic 18
Peru 18
Egypt 14
Iran, Islamic Republic of 13
Bolivia 12
Norway 11
Bulgaria 11
Latvia 11
Singapore 11
Kuwait 10
Hungary 10
Vietnam 10
Pakistan 9
Romania 8
Greece 8
Morocco 8
Slovenia 8
Indonesia 7
Nigeria 6
Ukraine 6
South Africa 6
Bahamas 5
New Zealand 5
Costa Rica 5
Saudi Arabia 5
Guatemala 4
Estonia 4
Dominican Republic 4
El Salvador 4
Ecuador 3
Ireland 3
Lithuania 3
Sri Lanka 3
United Arab Emirates 3
Slovakia 3
Senegal 3
Kazakhstan 2
Algeria 2
Paraguay 2
Palestinian Territory, Occupied 2
Qatar 2
Nicaragua 1
Mozambique 1
Puerto Rico 1
Lao People’s Democratic Republic 1
Brunei Darussalam 1
Croatia 1
Mali 1
Jamaica 1
Mauritius 1
Iceland 1
Antigua and Barbuda 1
Cote D’Ivoire 1
Cyprus 1
Mauritania 1
Malta 1
New Caledonia 1
Albania 1
Monaco 1
Grenada 1
Jordan 1
Cameroon 1
Trinidad and Tobago 1
Togo 1
Syrian Arab Republic 1
Zimbabwe 1

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