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EDITIONS
Thursday, 21 November, 2002, 14:41 GMT
Should spam be banned?
The amount of junk e-mail in inboxes has risen by over 80% since the beginning of the year.

Filtering company MessageLabs says demand for its spam service is now outstripping demand for its virus service, a sign of worrying times according to Chief Technology Officer Mark Sunner.

"I can see a situation where spam could make e-mail unworkable," he said.

The European Union has introduced laws to make spamming illegal in Europe, but that will not stop unsolicited emails being sent from abroad.

The US has the biggest problem with spam because of its virtually non-existent data protection laws.

Are you frustrated by spam? What can be done to stop the emails? Will the EU ban work?


This debate was chosen by the readers of BBC News Online. Every day until 29 November we are giving you the chance to help us set the debate agenda. Look out of this button on stories in our Technology Index:



Simply click on it and vote for the stories you want to debate. Today's debate got 69% of your votes.

Want to know more about the Your Choice experiment? Click here.



Stop invading our space

Kay, Canada
They drive me crazy! I have just spent half an hour wading through 51 of them; I have tried 'unsubscribing' but they still come, blocking up my service. Yes, they should be declared illegal and stop invading our space.
Kay, Canada

I think spam should be made illegal, but no public resources spent on policing it - I think we have bigger problems in our communities rather than sending our cops after spammers. The big telecommunication companies could have their own private investigators to track down spammers and integrate the price for doing so into their internet usage fees. That way major offenders could be prosecuted and discouraged.
Andrew, New Zealand

I have a hotmail account and most of the email I get through it is for items, services and government rewards that are only available in the US or some obscure South American country. As a fit, healthy male do I really want to know that I can get breast enlargement operations for 20% less than most places and weight loss pills that are only available to those in the US and Guatemala? Am I likely to be able to get grants from the US government and special mortgage deals from US banks?
Iain, Scotland

I think the governments should make changes to the laws and arrest mass spammers.
Mick, UK

If I receive a spam, especially one containing a scam, I report it to the e-mail provider. Some of them close the relevant e-mail account, however others ignore my email. Until e-mail providers demand proof of ID, people will be able to send spams without being traced, hence we will be unable to stop them.
Caron, England

Yes spam should be banned. I've had to give up a few e-mail addresses as the amount of spam I received made them too much trouble to deal with. Another issue is the type of spam. I regularly receive porn spam, even though I've never subscribed to anything like that. Any child could receive obscene e-mails as there as absolutely no protection again it. All the anti-spam software I've used is only partially successful.
Merlin, Czech


I fail to see why it's such a problem

Alex, UK
It's not hard to spot a spam mail by the Me21541209@majorwebmailprovider.com style addresses, or by the multiple exclamation marks afterwards in the subject header. It's even easier to hit delete. I fail to see why it's such a problem. I always tick the "Don't give my e-mail address to third parties" box if I give my e-mail address out online, and as a result I get about five spams a week maximum, despite several sports websites, my banks, a travel website and a political party all knowing my e-mail address. It's not hard if you apply a bit of web savvy.
Alex, UK

Spam should be banned as it is theft of service - I pay for my internet connection and for the computers I need to use e-mail. I do not want to pay for someone else's garbage cluttering up my system.
RobW, UK

The way to keep on top of spam is to treat your e-mail address with caution and not give it to anyone whom you do not trust. My primary email address never gets spammed, because I don't display it on any web pages, or use it for signing up for anything. It is given only to friends with whom I wish to communicate. No-one else knows it.
Stephen, England


There needs to be some means of registering e-mail addresses

George, UK
Spam is a massive problem. Its a constant battle for the likes of MessageLabs to continue to develop software clever enough to recognise spam in all its guises. Perhaps there needs to be some means of registering e-mail addresses to prevent untraceable software generated 'From' addresses. That way it would be easier to find the originator of any nuisance mail. Still wouldn't completely eradicate the problem though.
George, UK

There is a solution. All mail that has a non-valid return address is automatically blocked. The technology to do this exists, it's just that e-mail providers are unwilling to implement it.
Graeme, UK

There should be an internationally agreed tax of one cent (0.01 USD) per e-mail message. This would stop spam in its tracks. Businesses would be much more specific in their targeting. The funds generated could be used to build the global backbone.
Charles Smith, England

Without total global cooperation by treaty, a ban on spam could never be enforced. How could British authorities touch rogue spammers in Singapore? Anyway why bother? It's a nuisance, not a problem. Global law enforcement has better things to do, like catching terrorists.
Hugh, England


If you click on 'unsubscribe' you may actually be subscribing to a list

Mel, London, UK
Spam mailing is actually illegal under the 1998 Data Protection Act. If you click on an 'unsubscribe' on the email you may actually be subscribing to a list and therefore enabling the company to use your data to mail you. It is intensely frustrating. The best bet is never to click or tick the box that says you want to be contacted about things if you sign up to something. Instead to stop the mails your best bet is simply to delete them.
Mel, London, UK

Someone recently got hold of the domain suffix for our company e-mail system, and walloped us with approximately 2,000 e-mails using pure guesswork for the address prefixes. The e-mail server ground to a halt. Junk email is a total nuisance and should be dealt with harshly.
Dan, UK

Yes of course it should be. Probably 30% of the e-mail I receive is spam, not only that but the content of some of them is quite inappropriate. I think spam is the same as door to door salesman, unwanted, unneeded and a complete waste of time.
Stuart, UK

Of course spam should be banned. It actually is banned in most instances here in Norway. I get practically no European spam, because of the laws here in Europe, but a lot from the US, due to their non-existent laws and enforcement. Spam is a huge problem which causes massive loss of time and money for businesses around the world. Spammers also steal resources from unsuspecting servers around the net. Many businesses have had to increase the capacity of their mail servers over the last year, or spend a lot of money on mail filtering products.
Dag Oien, Norway


I'm tired of spam and scams and paying the costs

Dan K, USA
The EU needs to put pressure on the US to institute similar privacy laws. I'm tired of spam and scams and paying the costs. Selling or transfer of email address lists should be illegal.
Dan K, USA

Spam should certainly be banned, it's an infuriating waste of time and email account space. I don't even see the advantage to the spammers because I can't imagine anyone taking up their offers of body part enlargement, earning millions from home or collecting 'That money I owe you' (a cover-up subject header for porn spam). Sadly, I'm sure they will be able to find plenty of ways round the EU ban - the only way to stop it is by a universal ban on spam by the ISPs, and also on the collecting and sale of lists of active email addresses.
Sarah, UK

Spam is very frustrating, but personally, I get about 90% of spam from outside the EU, so I think the bill is rather pointless. As a minimum, the US and China would need to join in to have any effect, and it would seem unlikely that either would join.
Matthew, UK


Most e-mail spams are genuine and are sent by honest people trying to earn a living

James, France
Sure, the increase in junk e-mail can sometimes be irritating. And maybe there should be some kind of law that allows these e-mails to be easily identified so that users can auto-delete them. But let's keep the internet free and give people the right to choose! Most e-mail spams are in fact genuine and are sent by honest people trying to earn a living.
James, France

James of France: Why is it then that the biggest spam groups listed at the Spamhaus Register of Known Spam Operations (http://www.spamhaus.org/rokso) like Alan Ralsky and Ernesto Haberli have dubious legal records and send out nothing but ads for dubious weight loss and computer software that can't do what it claims and is just to persuade the gullible to part with their credit card numbers?
Dominic Jackson, UK

If the spammers were genuine people trying to make a living as James from France would have us believe, then they'd put in their real e-mail address and not a fake one. Fake addresses mean dishonest senders - end of story.
Pete B, Thatcham, UK

With junk mail, telephone calls and text messaging the chances of stopping spam are zero. The best thing to do is to block the senders.
Clive, UK


This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.
See also:

06 Nov 02 | Technology
28 Oct 02 | Technology
21 Oct 02 | Technology
16 Oct 02 | Technology
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