In an effort to stop legislation being introduced to combat spam email, a number of vendors and interest groups proposed a system of self-regulation to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today.
Spam - unsolicited email sent to Internet users and newsgroups - has been a bane on Net users' existence, one that ISPs have so far been slow to stamp out.
The group, including Microsoft, IBM, America Online and the US Center for Democracy and Technology asked the FTC and US Justice Department to clarify the legal position on spam and leave IT companies to develop filtering software and self-regulate the problem.
The group is worried legislation might restrict free speech and the innate freedom of the Internet in the process. However, ISPs have long been seen as doing nothing about the problem and last year an informal group of systems administrators brought ISP Uunet's newsgroup mail to a standstill in protest.
"Personally, I am cynical about the concept of self-regulation by the global ISP industry, given that it is only through a form of Net-wide mass action - individuals and ISPs blocking traffic from spam-friendly ISPs - that has led to some past spam-havens changing their policies," said Pete Lucas, system administrator and Internet expert.
In response the FTC unveiled a list of 12 common types of spam (www.ftc.com), and noted that it had already taken to court two companies sending fraudulent email.
"Spam is annoying, it slows down the email system and a lot is fraudulent? we're receiving more than 1,000 complaints a day," said Jodie Bernstein, director of consumer protection at the FTC.
It may be too late for self-regulation: Congress is already seeking to legislate on the problem and some legal precedents have been set. In several recent court-cases ISPs have finally taken spammers to court to stop them forging the ISP's address in the "From:" part of their spam. Hotmail, for example, has recently taken spammers to court, and Juno has several lawsuits in the pipeline.
"However, there are still some ISPs who, either through incompetence or sheer disinterest, continue to have a major spam problem," noted Lucas.
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