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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 June, 2003, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Spam e-mails face ban demands
Deception lies behind junk e-mails, says MP Paul Flynn
The nuisance of unsolicited messages is threatening to suffocate the world e-mail system, said an MP.

Labour MP Paul Flynn made the claim as he called for the UK to ban the "parasite" of commercial junk e-mails.

"Spam" messages were overloading internet systems, deceiving people and randomly spreading pornography, he told the House of Commons on Tuesday.

The Newport West MP was proposing a 10-minute rule bill which would change the consumer protection laws to bring in a ban.

The backbencher's bill stands no chance of becoming law itself but is designed to up the pressure on the government to act.

Meltdown fears

Mr Flynn said: "Unsolicited commercial e-mails are a pestilential nuisance that threatens to terminally swamp and suffocate the world e-mail system.

"That system is the biggest improvement in communications that the world has had since the invention of the telephone.

Pornographic e-mails are sent out on an entirely random basis to vulnerable people and to children
Paul Flynn
Labour MP
"Spam is now a multiplying giant parasite that threatens to destroy its host."

Mr Flynn, who has won parliamentary website of the year in the past, said MPs frequently returned from breaks away to find 600 new messages on their computers.

One MP had become so exasperated that he had thought about changing his web address to "".

Mr Flynn joked: "The only person I have ever known who claims to have benefited from spam is a gentleman who says he bought every offer he had received to enhance his maleness and he now has a male appendage which is 43m long."

Pornography risks

But the problem was often much more sinister, with medicinal drugs offered without prescription offered in some messages.

In an "odious" trend, three out of every 10 "spam" e-mails were pornographic, he said.

"These are sent out on an entirely random basis to vulnerable people and to children," he said.

Mr Flynn railed against the deceptions used by "spammers" who kept changing their methods in an effort to get through filters.

The "spam" menace risked closing the universal and open nature of e-mail, said the MP, with China already putting up an electronic wall to keep e-mails out.

With a group of MPs organising a "Spam Summit" in July, Mr Flynn said prosecutions could tackle the problem, as had happened with junk faxes.

Crackdown plans

His bill would make it a criminal offence to send e-mails without the consent of the recipient, as had already happened in Denmark.

Mr Flynn recounted how one anti-junk mail campaigner was predicting the problem could mean "meltdown" for the e-mail system in as little as six months.

That remark prompted an aside from one backbencher, who was heard saying: "Good, the sooner the better."

Governments are also getting involved in the fight against "spam". From October, a European Union directive will make unsolicited e-mails illegal across member states.

By October the UK is also looking to introduce strict new rules about how personal e-mail details are used to try to curb unwanted and unsolicited messages.

Half of all e-mails are spam
31 May 03  |  Technology
How to spot and stop spam
26 May 03  |  Technology
Making the spammers pay
23 May 03  |  Technology
Junk e-mail 'stresses workers'
22 May 03  |  Technology
Mid-week suffers spam overload
10 May 03  |  Technology
Government to crack down on spam
06 May 03  |  Technology

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