• United States

ITU considers anti-spam legislation at global level

Jul 15, 20042 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMalwareMessaging Apps

* ITU looks at global legislation as way to curb spam

Last week, the International Telecommunications Union, an agency of the United Nations, held a meeting intended to globalize legislative efforts to curb the problem of spam.

Sixty nations were represented at the meeting to discuss the spam problem and its economic consequences – the United Nations estimates that the total burden of spam cost $25 billion in 2003. The ITU plans to use anti-spam legislation that already exists in a variety of nations as models for other countries to adopt, and also to make it easier for nations to work together to prosecute spammers across international borders.

Part of the problem with prosecuting spammers internationally is that it is so difficult to bring a legal action in another nation or to extradite someone for violating spam laws. Complicating the issue is that many nations simply do not have anti-spam laws. Of course, the fundamental problem with prosecuting someone for violating anti-spam laws is finding them in the first place.

While the intentions of the participants at the ITU meeting were certainly noble, I don’t believe that their efforts will have much impact on curbing spam for one simple reason: expanding the reach of a law rarely makes it more effective. As it is, the spamming industry is very shadowy, making it difficult to find and prosecute spammers who violate anti-spam laws. At least two separate studies have found that most spam originates in the U.S., yet the plethora of state anti-spam laws and the CAN-SPAM Act have been almost wholly ineffective at stopping the practice of spamming in this country.

Even if all nations cooperated on anti-spam legislation, why would we expect a greater chance of success for a Dutch victim of spam to prosecute a spammer in Brazil than for a Texan victim of spam to prosecute a spammer in Vermont?

In short, I believe that the ITU’s efforts are misdirected. What I believe would be far more effective is working with ISPs, network operators and enterprises around the world on deploying better spam-blocking technology, particularly in those nations where the penetration of such technology is currently low. Ultimately, I believe that would provide a far more effective curb to spamming than international cooperation on anti-spam legislation.