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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 December, 2003, 17:12 GMT
Can spam be banned?
New European laws introduced on Thursday will make it a criminal offence to send e-mails or text messages without prior permission from the recipient.

Firms which continue to send junk mail will face hefty fines and could even be sued by the recipient.

However, there are concerns that the new regulations will be unable to stem the tide of spam, which now accounts for more than half of all e-mail traffic.

Many unsolicited e-mails are currently sent from outside the EU and will escape the new rules.

Will the new laws work? Can spam be beaten? What other measures can be taken?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

I just got back from a weeks holiday to find 140 emails from spam companies offering Viagra, male member enlargement and amazing business opportunities with Nigerian ambassadors' half brothers etc. Unfortunately my 'out of office' email replied to all of the emails so I look forward to receiving another 140 next week as they all know I exist.
Brian, Scotland

E-mail must not be free of charge! Once it will cost money to mail, people will think twice.
Asher Paldi, Kfar Sava, Israel

Banning Spam is good but banning responding to Spam is better. Take away spammers revenue stream and Spam diminishes. But it will never die for the same reason we have Computer viruses.
Brian Gonsalves, Calgary, Canada

The law seems to have either ignored or totally failed to understand a fundamental concept of the Internet; that the physical location of a service - web site/email/news etc - has only a passing relevance to the information it handles. Assuming that, say, Microsoft's servers are based in Seattle, is a very naive thought. They might be, but they're as likely to be in Canada or the UK. So, 'Ban Spam'? You'd have a more productive time knitting fog. The only single way to deal with spam is by using filters that work with or within email, and email servers, to weed out the larger part that can be detected.
Steve Brereton, York, UK

A European initiative. How will this stop spam? Spammers will only move their operations. Only a Globally enforced law will maybe have some effect!!
Peter Farrow, Upavon Wiltshire

The way to beat Spam is easy. Have yourself one e-mail box for general purposes and another for very personal use. Never give out the address of the second one to anyone except intimate associates so Spam does not arrive in it. Then simply Delete any e-mails in your general purpose box before reading your mail. Simple management taking about two seconds each time you open your box. You don't need to be an I.T. expert to work that one out. It's just the same principle as binning junk mail unopened straight off the doormat.
Sian Morgan, UK

A criminal offence to send e-mails or text messages without prior permission from the recipient? Maybe this should be extended to telephone calls and the postal service too. Once the system is in place and the laws enforceable, we could go as far as not using verbal communication without prior permission, and all live in peace at last!
Justin, Vienna, Austria

It's unethical to send someone something they haven't asked for
Magnus, London
It's unethical to send someone something they haven't asked for. The cowards never give their addresses away. Otherwise, I would go over their and let them know how annoyed I am. Being able to prosecute them would be one step in the right direction.
Magnus, London

Taking a bit of time to set up junk-mail filters on email accounts is usually beneficial, as is adding email addresses that you know aren't spam to a safe list. Any emails from addresses that aren't in your safe list will be filtered into a separate folder, to ease deletion.
David, Leeds

I don't think it would ever be possible to fully administrate the Internet and the vast amounts of junk e-mail distributed. Neither will it ever be possible to stop the paedophilia, violence, illegalised music trading or the pornography either. The Internet always has been, and will always continue to be, an unregulated medium.
Daisy, Birmingham, UK

If you put your name on an email list you get spammed - LIVE WITH IT!! I have managed to use the internet for the past 10 years without any need for spam filters whatsoever, I get at most one or two spam messages a day, email addresses are not selected at random they get added because you let them in most cases.
David Ward, Wrexham

ISPs should impose a tax on sending emails but at a level whereby it doesn't affect ordinary users but hits the spammers hard. For example, anyone who sends out more than 10,000 emails a month or sends a single message to over 1,000 addresses is hardly likely to be an innocent individual so these are the people who should be taxed for the privilege of wasting our time!
Chris Ransom, Colchester, UK

The Internet is a "collaborative anarchy", there is no way it can be policed, there is no way it can be taxed, there is no way it can be controlled.
Matthew Lowe, Aberystwyth, UK
The Internet is a "collaborative anarchy", there is no way it can be policed, there is no way it can be taxed, there is no way it can be controlled. It doesn't matter what we do, spam will ALWAYS be a problem. The laws might help, but will never stop it entirely.
Matthew Lowe, Aberystwyth, UK

The new laws against spam help, but the current technology is not yet able to enforce the ban. Right now, and for the near future, the spammers will have the upper hand. ISPs should start charging a "Spam Tax" to bulk E-Mailers. Ultimately, it might be up to hired hackers to seek out and crash the computers of hackers.
David, Milwaukee, WI, USA

Enough with the tax on e-mails talk! NO NO NO. I'm getting angry. We pay for internet access so why should we pay for sending per e-mail as well? I would rather delete my spam manually. No drivers like paying insurance, road tax and THEN the congestion charge. E-Mail tax would be just as unpopular. And then the U.K really is a stingy, money pinching nation isn't it?
Donna, London, UK

Hopefully, spam will die out. It is hard to believe that there is still any return on this form of advertising, since it has oversaturated the Email stream as much as it has. For people who use Email as a primary communication business tool, the affect on productivity for many has been devastating.
Julie Phipps, Canada

Hopefully, spam will die out. It is hard to believe that there is still any return on this form of advertising, since it has oversaturated the Email stream as much as it has. For people who use Email as a primary communication business tool, the affect on productivity for many has been devastating. In many larger companies, updating spam filters for email servers has become more than a full time job. For the smaller businesses, no amount of filtering software is ever enough.
Julie Phipps, Canada

I don't need laws, I just filter my e-mails, and use anti-spam software. It takes a hour or so to set up, and no need for politicians, law courts etc.
Mike, UK

I think it's down to e-mail service providers to stop spam. They need to have software that stops spammers hiding their address, and that automatically has a "report spam" button added to every e-mail so it can be reported faster.
Craig, London

To Chris, UK who worked for an email marketing company: unless the businesses you send emails to have all opted in to receive them, you are sending spam. If it helps to tell yourself otherwise, I completely understand...but try not to write it down or say it out loud!
Frances, Southsea, UK

Ban spam at the earliest
Sachin Vats, India
Spam is a big problem today in internet world. I never gave my email address to any site but just because my friend forwarded some multiple id mails, my yahoo hotmail account mailbox is flooded with five hundred mails in three weeks! Ban spam at the earliest.
Sachin Vats, India

I would easily accept a 'tax' on internet traffic, including emails. As long as there is strict control on the ISPs so they cannot start adding 'hidden costs' to the client.
Even if only Europe implements such a tax then we would still be 'saved' from a lot of foreign spam. Why? Simply because the ISP that connects to the European part of the net would have to pay for the cost and it will be their choice whether to block the traffic going into Europe or to forward the cost to the spammers.
Stefan, Sweden

Most spammers use false email addresses and the websites they link to contain no physical address details - it is more or less impossible to stop spam
David Russell, UK

As the internet appears to be one of the few remaining unregulated media, I will take deleting unsolicited emails in my stride
Ed Karten, UK
Spam will eat itself. Once everybody is clued up, spammers will have to look for other means of annoying us. In the meantime, it is not that high on my list of pet hates. As the internet appears to be one of the few remaining unregulated media, I will take deleting unsolicited emails in my stride.
Ed Karten, UK

Spam exists because the original inventors of email back in the 70s didn't foresee it. The solution needed is quite elegant and would mean completely re-implementing email from the ground up.
Easy! Apart from the problem of switching everyone over to 'new email'...
Stephen G, UK

How to stop spam?
To prevent all that lovely spam getting to your Email box is simple, set up an email address to use for anything that is not personal and use it. Do not give out your real email address to anyone but your friends and family or trusted people. Most importantly, tell your friends not to include you in multi-mails. You might get the odd 1 or 2 but not as much as you would normally.
Peter berry, Portsmouth UK

While we're at it how about a total ban on corporate advertising? On hoardings, buses, buildings - it's a disgusting, unsolicited eyesore!
Ben, UK

I used to receive up to 100 spam messages a day. Then I installed spamassassin (free software). It works very well: it's been weeks since I found spam in my mailbox. I've also given up checking for "false drops" since there never were any. So spam can be stopped using technology alone. Nevertheless, anti-spam legislation is desirable as a matter of principle and to combat bandwidth theft etc.
DV, Brussels, Belgium

The E-Mail Servers (Outlook Express Eudora, Netscape etc.,) should devise a system whereby everyone using the service must complete and continue to update a list of acceptable addresses only. The rest to be automatically bounced. The expectation of confirmation e-mails addressed to the recipient would have to be listed prior to joining any Internet Group or service. It is up to the e-mail user to monitor his/her list of 'good' email addresses and addressees.
Margaret Dostal, Adelaide, South Australia

I think the new European laws against spamming curb the problem a little bit. However, as long as there are people who are receptive to these unscrupulous marketers, spamming will continue. Hence, boycotting spams may be the best way to get rid of this problem. It would definitely help if more sophisticated email filters are created and utilized.
Janet Paulin, Philippines/Australia

We do not ban the paper wasteful equivalent that comes through our letter boxes, it must be better to let the electronic form replace it. They are both a minor nuisance but it seems the EU has Blair's disease of banning things just because he does not do it or like it.
James SG, B Stortford

This is simply political manoeuvring
Allen Whaley, Colorado, USA
How will European laws save us from Asian spammers? Should it be banned? Yes. Can it be banned? Not a chance. This is simply political manoeuvring, it's easy to be against something nobody likes and pretend you can fix it by writing up a piece of paper.
Allen Whaley, Colorado, USA

To simply ban spam will be almost impossible because it comes over the net from everywhere. However if we join efforts and simply let the companies know that if their spam reaches our computers their products will never be purchased by us, I believe spam will diminish sharply.
Peter Blakeney, Itajaí, Brazil

Anti spam laws would be impossible to police and prosecute.
Barry Stoll, Rochford, UK

So many people with the grand idea of charging 0.1p or 1p per email. Who exactly will be collecting this fee from a spammer who isn't even based in this country? Spam is annoying and it does put people off using email, but I can still delete 100 unwanted emails in less time than it takes me to throw away the flyers for the latest pizza joint that fall through my letterbox at least once every day.
Jon, England

Yes it can be beaten, but this will require a global enforcement with stiff penalties for those who flout the law. Any spam messages received should be returned to a central clearing account which can then trace the sender and impose severe financial fines no matter where or which country in the world the sender is from. If the fines don't work, close the business down. If this is too severe, then the answer would have to be NO, like any other law, if there is no punishment enforced it is a waste of time.
K, Sunderland; UK

I was speaking with a chap the other day who is supposedly building a reputable high-class toys business; he was quite blatant about having bought a UK spam list and was getting ready to use it as a key marketing aid.
Steve Wilcockson, Cambridge, UK

Yes. Ban all 'free' e-mail accounts and charge one pence per e-mail.
Adam, Chelmsford Essex

I'm sure you can quite easily ban Spam - just make it illegal for shops to sell it (who buys it anyway?). Can Spam be beaten? Well, you can make a nice hash with it, but it looks too lumpy to attack it with a whisk.
I just wish people stop sending me unsolicited email.
Martin Williams, Bolton

This legislation is toothless PR
Victoria, UK
This legislation is toothless PR. As for avoiding spam, simply have a Hotmail address that you give when you're suspicious, and a 'real' address for everything else. I haven't had any spam to my 'real' account since I set it up two years ago. If you're plagued with 800 messages a day, I suggest you abandon that account and open a new one.
Victoria, UK

Like many I have several email accounts. My original one set up years ago with a short address now gets 20 to 30 spam a day (nice to hear everyone else also needs pills, enlargement etc). Newer email addresses I have set up have much longer names in the address e.g. rogerforbusinessonly@etc.etc. To date no spam. Simple, but it works (until a spammer reads this I suppose!).
Roger, Poole

Amazingly enough, I don't get spam. Oh sure, I have an account that I seldom, if ever check. This is for anywhere where I need to fill in an address. My main two accounts are 100% spam free, on Hotmail, due to my only giving the address to people I want to receive mail from, and not bandying it about on websites and whatnot.
Andrew, the Netherlands

You can just delete them, you know. The only reason companies send them is because some people take up the offer. If no-one did, the companies would stop sending them because they would be non-profit making.
Lisa, England

When I think of spam, I think of Monty Python's amazing foresight. Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam... How did they know, way back then, that there'd be so MUCH spam in the future? Nostrodamus's predictions weren't half as specific.
Colm Ryan, Milan, Italy

Stop spam by prosecuting the company who the spammer is advertising for. Spammers will not be caught! But the drug companies and credit card companies etc can be!
Steven Simpson, Sunderland

The solution to this problem can be technological. Email is the technology furthest behind in the modern internet. Technology exists for point-to-point authentication and automatic filtering but it hasn't made it to the desktop.
Steve Carter, York UK

Nice thought, but a waste of time and money
Lisa, Cambridge, UK
Nice thought, but a waste of time and money. I get around 50 spam mails a day from the exact same company trying to sell the exact same thing and while it's faintly annoying, it really is no big deal. Use your delete key, people - it's not hard and it won't cost anyone anything.
Lisa, Cambridge, UK

Have we banned Junk Mail, or Nuisance Phone calls, or Door to Door sales?...What ever could give you the impression that spam would be different.
Phil, Chalfont St Peter, UK

Differentiating between spam and real email would be easier if you had more than one email account. Use one for private use between relatives and friends, and another for use on internet sites. You're unlikely to receive spam to an email address if you don't use it on web sites or message boards.
Brian, Lancashire, UK

Place a nominal tax of 1p for an e-mail sent across the internet. For everyday users this would be a laughably small amount to pay and companies sending internal e-mail would not be affected - it would however make it prohibitively expensive to send 10 million e-mails.
Lee, Stevenage, UK

Spam can be controlled by ISPs. If I owned an ISP, or was in control of an ISP's security policy, I would offer an email service where the normal pop3 port allowed unfiltered email, whilst another port allowed email to be retrieved after processing by something like spam-assassin. I use spam-assassin at home, and it's reduced spam from 20-30 a day to perhaps one or two a week appearing in my inbox!
Paul Marsh, Poole

Spam will never be eradicated. Think of it like a virus and you appreciate the problem and the way to get rid of it. You have to pay a small fee for software that gets rid of 95% of it. That is now the world we live in. Regulation is like most crime regulation; necessary but fairly ineffective.
Ken Young, London UK

When I shop on the net, I always produce a false email address even if it requires it for communication. I always have an order number to work with if I don't get my shopping delivered by one week, and my email address remains private. Number of spam emails since doing this: 0.
DS, Southampton, UK

Everything should be Opt in. If you don't opt in you should be left alone
C T, UK
I have two email addresses one received about 180 spam messages a day the other received none at all. I simply never tell anyone my email address that doesn't need to know it. As for banning spam I think this should apply to all forms of unsolicited communication. Snail mail, phone calls, people calling at your door and people stopping you in the street. Everything should be Opt in. If you don't opt in you should be left alone.
C T, UK

Is there a way of making emails verifiably accountable to one person? If there was, you should be able to set your inbox to only accept such verified emails. Spammers could easily be identified and blocked in spite of their numerous email accounts and aliases without affecting the flow of legitimate emails.
Ivan Pearson, Oxford, UK

It is depressing that the Internet, which could have been so amazing, is now dominated by corporations, spam and porn.
Guy Heaton, NW UK

The ONLY way to beat spam is by software. We have just implemented a software program (Spam Assassin) that has reduced my emails from around 120 per day, to around 20. All the "killed" mail is spam; around 18 or the 20 "clean" messages are good.
Harry Collier, United Kingdom

It's not about law. We have had most of the laws required to stop spam for five years. It's about enforcement - to date I do not know of one case where the Information Commissioner has fined a company for breaking direct marketing rules. How much more difficult would it be to enforce International Law. And contrary to what seems popular belief, plenty of the spam I get comes from the UK.
Terry Powell, Manchester, UK

This attempt to stop/control spam is laughable. There is only one solution, and it very easy; To send and receive email, all people should have an optional email security ID. Email users can then reject email from no-secure sources. The only problem is to ensure non-forgery of security IDs. Before anyone mocks this idea, it is already in use for secure web sites.
Simon Windsor, Bristol, England

Spam has to be stopped to protect the innocent Internet user. Unfortunately we live in a sick world where everything needs to be policed. Why should a few spoil it for the many, as is usual these days? And don't forget a lot of the Spam is sinister and contains malicious intentions by criminal gangs. Ban Spam.
Howard Adams, Surrey

It can't be successfully stopped, but it's easy to ignore
Greg, Lancaster, UK
One of my email accounts receives in excess of 200 spam messages per day. Seeing as I have no interest in Viagra, farm chicks, or free printer paper, it takes around ten seconds to highlight them all and hit 'delete'. It can't be successfully stopped, but it's easy to ignore.
Greg, Lancaster, UK

It only takes one "hit" to make the spammers efforts worth it. translation: even if one person out of a million responds, its worth it to send spam.. therefore spam will continue, as long as we have people who respond to it..
Ada Mentesh, N. Cyprus

Bearing in mind that most spam is targeted for the US market then it won't make any difference. One of my old e-mail accounts was receiving over 125 pieces of spam a day. It should be banned as it is usually unwanted but all the countries need to come up with an anti-spam strategy, not just the European ones.
John Harding, Lancaster, UK

Much 'SPAM' is sent by companies responding to people who signed up for some information, and have forgotten what they signed up to, but can easily ask not to receive more mail. Real SPAM is only sent by cheap marketing companies that will not feel bound by any legislation.
Simon Narracott, Reading

Will the new laws work : no.
Can spam be beaten : no.
What other measures can be taken? Charge for emails - its that simple.
Andrew Brier, Macclesfield, UK

To beat spam I utilize the "exclusive filter" feature on my Hotmail email account. This way all email from senders not on my contact list are sent to a "junk mail" folder. After a quick scan of junk mail to ensure there are no friendly notes I hit the empty button and it's all gone.
Lucas, Rochester, USA

Why not just create an email system that uses some form of secure certificate
Peter Flannery, Bromley
Why not just create an email system that uses some form of secure certificate for both people involved to be able to communicate to each other and without you are unable to contact each other. Then you could choose to have a public email address that allows anybody to contact you and a private email encrypted address just for friends etc... This way you can forget wasting time and money over stupid issues like this!
Peter Flannery, Bromley

If you suffer from spam you probably deserve it. Spammers work from lists - not randomly generated addresses - so you've got to ask yourself, 'how did it get on there?'
AT, London, UK

"If you suffer from spam you probably deserve it..." AT from London wrote above - That is complete rubbish, I have recently set up an e-mail server for a secondary school where I work. My e-mail address is James@ ... I have not joined any mailing lists or given out my e-mail address in any way. Spammers use a program that e-mails every possible address on the Internet. For example it will start by sending the message to aaaa@aaa.com, then aaab@aaa.com, aaac@aaa.com and so on until every e-mail address in the world has been sent the dreaded spam!
James, Kent

I like receiving spam as I don't get many emails and it is nice to be popular. I realise the spammers may not be my friends, but at least they bother to keep in touch - unlike my good-for-nothing Grandchildren!
Ellis Howarth-Reed, Dudley, West Midlands

Make it illegal to RESPOND to Spam and it might have some effect.
Andrew, Shipley, England

Without dealing with spam around the world the current attempts are wasted - most of mine comes from outside the EU. I also run websites which send out double opt in newsletters - these are legitimate and are the only way people should receiving mailing list mailings.
Diane Drinkwater, Manchester, UK

One of my email accounts that I have had for over 10 years is now unusable
Chris, Wakefield
Spam will never be completely eliminated. One of my email accounts that I have had for over 10 years is now unusable, with around 300 plus spam emails landing in the mailbox a week. Even if spam laws in America where half of spam comes from happens, it will just then come from east Europe and other countries with out such laws. For every bit of antispam software that comes out 10 more ways of getting around it comes out
Chris, Wakefield

This is just another ill-thought out piece of legislation. A huge amount of spam has forged internet headers anyway, so tracing them becomes a problem.
Martyn, Reading, UK

I am amazed at how many spam emails I receive. It clearly must be easy to do and get payment for sending spam. Clearly most people hate it, but it must pay and whilst it does, it will continue. Out of interest, I started to get spam from myself...how did that happen?!
Richard, Scotland

There are two legal issues when one talks about this issue. One, who sends spam mails may advocate the freedom of speech guaranteed under the constitution. Other, who gets annoyed by spam mail may say that this is an intrusion of privacy. I believe that it is up to one's conscience. Especially, I'd like to tell the spam senders, "This is not a legal issue, but your conscience"
Atsushi, Japanese/New York

If governments really wanted to stop spam, they would go after the companies that hire spammers
Jim, NJ, USA
There is no way to stop all spammers as the brighter ones will always find a way to operate without getting caught. They can even use someone else's PC to do their dirty work. If governments really wanted to stop spam, they would go after the companies that hire spammers. Some of these companies are large, powerful corporations with lots of money. That means neither the US government nor the EU will make a serious effort to penalize them. Spam will only away when it becomes unprofitable.
Jim, NJ, USA

I have seen a steady rise over the last year of spam to my 'junk mail' address - I now get 50 - 60 mails a day. But not to my 'proper' e-mail address which is with another ISP (Internet Service Provider). Some ISPs must share some of the responsibility. I'm sure some are selling their customers' addresses to spammers and therefore condoning the spread of spam.
Dave Dyer, Eastleigh, UK

I think that ISPs should be obligated to check any email sent to mailing lists of 100 or more people that crosses their mail servers.
Ross Parker, Bournemouth, UK

Can spam be beaten? Yes. With my mighty index finger and my trusty delete key!
Glenn Herbert, Matlock

Glenn Herbert says he can beat spam with his mighty index finger. Ok, you're hired, I got 4,500 spam messages in six hours last weekend, intermixed were less than fifty messages that were for me. Please come around and use your mighty index finger and remove the spams that are now arriving at the rate of one every five seconds. And it's speeding up, it was only 100 an hour last month, but this last weekend saw it peaking at over 800 an hour and it will continue to grow as Christmas nears, as it does every year.
Chris O'Shea, London, UK

Average e-mail users like me could probably benefit more from being cautious than from new legislation
Timo, Bristol, UK
Is the spam problem being overhyped or is it just me? I receive about one spam message a month even though I've had my present account for 3 years. This is probably because I only give away my address to good friends and trusted colleagues. I use a separate account for commercial purposes on a daily basis, but even there I only receive two or three spam mails a day. Average e-mail users like me could probably benefit more from being cautious than from new legislation.
Timo, Bristol, UK

Maybe it's not the "spammers" we should be going after with useless legislation, but the idiots who actually part with their money as a result of a desperate bid to lose weight/improve sexual prowess/see Britney Spears naked!! That way maybe mass mailings won't be so financially tempting for the spammers!!
Paul Hart, Droitwich, UK

Honest marketing messages where the subject line makes it clear that it is marketing, should be allowed as it is a valid acceptable form of advertising. It's the dishonest ones that pretend to be e-mails from friends or non-delivery notices that should be banned.
Andrew B, Manchester

If people stop buying from the spammers there will be no point in spamming and (hopefully) we'll end up with fewer messages. Whilst spammers continue to make a profit they will not stop.
Rich, London

If you had to pay for every bit of junk mail that came through your letter box there'd be uproar
Alun, Acton
Why do people keep saying 'just use the delete key?' I've already paid for my time on-line to download all this rubbish. If you had to pay for every bit of junk mail that came through your letter box there'd be uproar.
Alun, Acton

So what should we do if we do get unwanted emails from within the UK that we have not given permission for? No advice has been supplied, just articles telling us it is a criminal offence to send unsolicited.
Michelle Hedley, Cramlington, Northumberland

A legitimate licence should be required to mass e-mail people. If anyone does not have a license, they should be prosecuted.
Lee Clark, Maidenhead

95% of my email is spam and all of this originates outside the EU. The US is the real problem in controlling this and the EU should put pressure on American legislators to clean up their act.
Maurice, Burton upon Trent, England

How about charging a nominal fee to send an email, say 0.1p. The knock-on effect will be that bulk emailing from a single address will stop.
JH, UK

Spam is here to stay
Paul, Bournemouth
I'm a sys admin, and we use many tools to reduce to amount of spam that reaches the users' desktops. Each day I am faced with over 100 e-mails to sort through and clean out the spam, and forward real mails, as still to this day some proper e-mails still get trapped as spam, the systems are not infallible. But we also try to educate users, into treating their e-mail addresses, like their phone numbers, and only give it to people/companies who they want to contact them. Spam is here to stay, we can only reduce it by education and responsible use of email addresses.
Paul, Bournemouth

The ban is a very nice idea, but completely unworkable/ enforcable. Personally, I would prefer the ISPs / e-mail suppliers do more to combat spam at the source.
Jo Caswell, London, UK

I work for an e-mail marketing company. These regulations are only going to effect companies using e-mail marketing in a legitimate way already, and then only those involved in b2c mailings - b2b mailings are still permitted (as they should be - can you imagine a company only allowing phone calls from people they know?) Unfortunately, the spam which most people complain about will continue to flow from the Far East. All we will have succeeded in doing is hurting British companies marketing to British people.
Chris, UK

I use a third party piece of software called Mailwatcher, which checks email addresses against spam blacklists and automatically deletes/bounces them. I receive between 50 and 100 spam messages a day. I haven't had one get into my inbox for about six months. Users should be proactive and take some responsibility for themselves.
Conrad Baker, Walsall

Putting this politely, the endless stream of invitations to visit lurid sites, take drugs to improve my 'performance' and buy gadgets with which to terrify my wife are the precise reasons for NOT getting my poor old dad hooked up to this shameful nonsense.
Patrick V. Staton, Guildford, UK

The new spam laws are a nightmare - they only serve to cause problems for organisations trying to contact their supporters (I work for a Charity) - however the small number of people who clog up the net with their offensive spam will just get away with it!
Pete, London, UK

Almost all of them are from the USA, so this new law won't even make a dent in the amount of rubbish I receive!
Kate, Swindon, UK
When I checked my personal email last night I had 816 spam emails! A large majority were advertising pornographic websites, lotions and potions for weight loss or to increase the size of various body parts, or offering to improve my credit rating (thankfully I don't require any of these services!!!) Almost all of them are from the USA, so this new law won't even make a dent in the amount of rubbish I receive!
Kate, Swindon, UK

How can SPAM be stopped? I don't believe that it can. Every day I have to clear up to 30 bits of spam from my e-mail account. Every time I get a piece I use the BLOCK facility provided by my e-mail provider but another piece just fills the space. The spammers will always be one step ahead - all they have to do is change their sending profile. I use the delete button, it's the only way forward
Sam Harrison, Grays, Essex

A lot of spam is already delivered not from the original source but from virus-infected computers. I think it is technically impossible to stop spam without blocking lots of innocent emails too. So we will probably have to live with it the same way we have to live with viral infections(of ourselves and our computers)
Hartmut B., Berlin, Germany

90% of the worlds spam comes from about 15 people in California. These people have been identified, why can't the ISP's and network carriers just block traffic from these people and do the world a favour?
Duncan, Salisbury, UK

Surely the answer is to fine the companies who are using the spammers
Alan, England
As most spam is advertising products, surely the answer is to fine the companies who are using the spammers. These are easily traceable as they expect people to buy the goods advertised. It seems fairly obvious to me that if you stop advertisers using spammers in the first place, the spammers will have nothing to send out.
Alan, England

In order to ban something, three conditions have to be met: a) the perpetrators need to be adequately identified, b) it needs to be unviable (risk of arrest and punishment is greater than potential gains), and c) the law banning the act must be enforceable. From what I can see, we are meeting perhaps one of these three conditions (enforceable). We can't identify the perpetrators, and the risk/reward ratio is very much in favour. The best way of reducing spam is to make it financially unviable, although how is fuelling plenty of debate. When resources are free, or virtually free, there are plenty of people who are willing to spoil the commons.
Michael Ansley, Guildford, UK

Whilst I agree that it is nice, in principle, to be able to prosecute those who send out this junk, it is not actually going to make a blind bit of difference. Most internet providers in the UK will actively disconnect spammers and have done so for quite a few years ¿ this only causes minor inconvenience to the purveyors of this highly irritating trade and there is still an ever increasing amount of rubbish infiltrating our inboxes. This law, in the event that any prosecutions are forthcoming, will merely work to drive spammers overseas. The internet being what it is, e-mail can be sent from anywhere an internet connection is available.
Mat, London, UK

I have read a lot of cynical and conspiratorial responses on this board, but the one from Ken Buckely (below) that states the US Government likes the spam, takes the cake. I have news for you Ken; most Spam may originate from the US, but it also is much more likely to target the US. Also, it is a well documented fact that spam hurts productivity and has far less positive effect on the sale of hardware, or software fixes. Higher productivity drives markets, not PC sales and the US Government knows that.
Dan Murray, Boston, USA

Hopefully the rest of the world will take similar steps
Stephanie Clarke, IT professional, UK
I welcome the new laws. Of course they are limited, as plenty of spam comes from outside the EU, but they are a good start. Hopefully the rest of the world will take similar steps. Spam will continue to come, but antispam measures such as detection software will become increasingly sophisticated. There are also things you can do to protect yourself, eg not giving your email address out too freely, especially on web sites, and only dealing with companies with a good privacy policy. Perhaps the tide will eventually be held back... I hope so, although it will be a long hard fight! And we shouldn't not act because spammers 'care little about the law' - not caring about a law is no defence and won't stop you getting caught and punished.
Stephanie Clarke, IT professional, UK

The laws will work for all spam from anywhere, as long as they are enforced in the same way that all other business law is enforced. For example, a British company has no obligation to comply with US law, however if they contravene any law or refute any court decision against them, they are banned from conducting any further trade in the US, and any company director faces arrest and imprisonment should they step foot on US soil. However, it appears that the British and European governments have up to this point been too spineless to do the same to US companies, and that's where these laws will fall down!
Chris J, UK

I was singularly unshocked to see that only 2% of UK websites comply with the legislation regarding cookies. As you say, 'there is "no excuse" for sites not to provide users with a single click opt-out, because it is very simple to do. Maybe the BBC could even try adding this 'very simple' feature to their own website before they start having a go at other people.
Aidan Merritt, London, England

How about this: change the infrastructure of the net so that, for every (say) 100 mails you send out, you have to perform some manual operation (which is designed so that it can't be automated, and needs human interaction). For the normal user, this would be a minor inconvenience; for a spammer it would be a show-stopper.
Andy, Brighton UK

Over two thirds of my business traffic is now spam
Jean Pierre de Lutz, Saignon, France
I hesitate to provide my email for fear it will be further exploited by spammers - this must stop. Over two thirds of my business traffic is now spam and I have tried everything to get rid of it. The cost are horrendous, besides the accidental loss of legitimate data, my time lost in sorting through an average of thirty five to forty unsolicited emails a day is unbearable
Jean Pierre de Lutz, Saignon, France

The problem is that enough people actually purchase the products advertised to make is profitable. If everyone stopped buying from these 'adverts' the people distributing the spam would go off and do something else.
Martin Hepworth, Oxford, UK

This is like introducing a law declaring terrorism to be illegal. Laws won't stop it happening; instead, you must increase security and (if possible) make the criminals' actions futile. Spam is best dealt with by companies and ISPs implementing (and maintaining) decent spam filtering measures as part of their overall security policy. I can't believe time and money are being wasted on legislation, which is bound to be littered with loopholes. As usual, the only people (other than the spammers themselves) who end up smiling will be the lawyers.
Frank, Knutsford, UK

I work in the IT industry and the best way to deal with SPAM is to have a good working system in place that can remove these before they are delivered to the user, otherwise you will always receive SPAM from one source or another.
Simon, UK

Since almost all spam comes from overseas, the new law will have almost no impact. This law is about the Government being seen to be doing something.
Mole, Sough, UK

Without enforcement these laws are useless
Mike, Cambs, UK
Having suffered from someone hijacking my email address to send spam, and having received no response to emails from my Internet Service Provider, it's obvious that without enforcement these laws are useless. How about a small dedicated team with a website containing a standardised form to report spam? If this was done right, the likely source of the spam could be automatically detected (there are already internet tools to do this) and sites then shut down on the basis of those causing most grief. Enforcing closure of even one spam site per day would go a long way to reducing the problem.
Mike, Cambs, UK

I receive well over 200 spam messages every day. Thankfully Microsoft Outlook's mail filter detect 90% of it but that still leaves a lot of manual deleting and I must say that it really is hugely annoying.
Peter WIllis, Bristol

90% of all spam received in Europe originates from the USA. Whilst Europe is moving to ban spam, the USA is moving in the opposite direction. The US is close to passing the CAN-SPAM Act, which will actually legalise spamming and many "underground" companies are gearing up to expand their operations, unworried by threat of legal action. Whilst the US government takes such a stance, the future of spamless email looks bleak.
Malc, UK

There should be a return to sender (unopened) option by law. If its not on the e-mail THEN the regulatory body can fine the Spam sender. Instead of putting the emphasis on on recipients to complain. Spam senders would soon get fed up with their network becoming clogged with returned junk emails.
Gerald, Cambridge

Why is it OK to receive unsolicited direct marketing via the post and not through email?
Nick, Solihull, UK
Why is it OK to receive unsolicited direct marketing via the post and not through email? If we go down the route to make all unsolicited advertising illegal then are we going to sue the local paper boy for giving us - unsolicited - the local free rag? The problem with opt-in lists for advertisers is that the responses are going to be lower because all and sundry have mailed them for those things they have opted into, the information is based on questionnaire filling and not by hard purchase behaviour and with lists of opt in only, you are getting the same people (via a variety of email addresses) opting into different offers (usually to get something 'free'). You are not getting new customers like you can target via postal and fixed line telemarketing.
Nick, Solihull, UK

I get over 50 SPAM emails a day and deleting them is an option but it would be better not to receive them at all. Yes, it needs to be global legislation and if it could be reduced then we would all end up with a better email service as there would be less garbage travelling the global networks. Come on, USA, take this seriously.
Malc, Pinner, UK

I wish spam could be banned, as it's certainly irritating. If I had taken up every unsolicited email offer to increase the size of a certain part of my body, I would no longer be able to fit in my house.
Peter HK, Lancaster, UK

I ended having to get a new email address due to the dozens of spam messages coming in everyday. It has worked (only getting 1 or 2 daily) for now. I would like to know if putting your email address in the "remove me" box actually works as a way of reducing the spam. Some say spammers use it as a way of confirming that your email address is still being used.
J, London, UK

The only policing will be from the users themselves
Stuart, Reading, UK
I would love to see less spam in my inbox. However, I don't think the internet is a place you will ever be able to police. It is an ever growing and expanding form of true communication. The only policing will be from the users themselves by not replying or even opening the spam mail.
Stuart, Reading, UK

Even if only a small percentage of those who receive spam (i.e. everyone) complains to the authorities how will they cope?
Dave Williams, UK

Spam from an internet provider is stealing because you have to pay for the time to download their own message. It may be minimal but it can soon mount up!
Jimmy, Ealing, UK

The internet is often said to be a global resource that transcends country boundaries As such localised laws while setting a good example are going to have little effect. Spam needs a combination of global legislation, technology and somebody to police it, otherwise there will always be someone sending it, and no-one to catch them.
Phil, Oxford, UK

I work as an IT systems administrator and whatever we do is wrong. If we attempt to block spam, we block legitimate e-mails as well (false-positives), so we'll get complaints. If we don't block them, the company gets complaints about sexual harassment. I suppose a company could say that you waive all rights to be offended by anything you receive in e-mail by working for them, but that would be draconian indeed.
John Airey, Peterborough, UK

It's currently just too easy to create an e-mail address with which to flood the market with rubbish
Jason Miles, Reading
If setting up a valid e-mail address required some kind of identity check or machine ID verification before registering the new address, then all this nonsense would be alleviated. ISP's (Internet Service Providers) could then trace the source of spam mail and prosecute the offenders. It's currently just too easy to create an e-mail address with which to flood the market with rubbish.
Jason Miles, Reading

E-mail and the web are global communities, therefore we need a global law to combat the global problem.
Bob, UK

The new legislation only targets consumers and how many will go to the trouble of identifying the source of a spammer and taking action? The 'delete' key and a resigned sigh is the easy option.
Dave, Surrey

Until people understand the right they have to complain to the Information Commissioner, who is responsible for issuing the sanctions to persistent offenders, people will just continue to press 'delete'.
Emily, Manchester

The new EU laws will do nothing to curb spam - it's the Americans that need to ban it, as this is where it all comes from.
Chris E, Norfolk, England

Since most spam comes from outside the EU and most spam is also fraudulent I think these laws will have no effect whatsoever.
Richard Read, UK

Most of the spam is coming from the States, so is there any chance of US legislators acting to suppress this abuse.
Ken Buckley, England
Most of the spam is coming from the States, so is there any chance of US legislators acting to suppress this abuse. Absolutely none. The reason is that anything that soaks up network capacity or PC resources brings forward the day when the world buys a US manufactured hardware upgrade.
Ken Buckley, Luton, England

People will continue to send spam for so long as it is profitable, so how about undermining its profitability by educating the public to ignore it and never buy from a spammer?
Tim, Bath, England

I'm happy with Spam - I've had many special offers from companies that I had never heard of. I don't think it should be banned at all
Jonathon Evans, Wales

The new EU laws will prevent spamming by responsible companies which will make the effort to comply with the new laws. However, it will have zero effect on the vast majority of spammers who care little about the law. More importantly, how can a law in this country or the EU stop spam which originates in a country outside the EU e.g. the USA?
It's a bit like King Canute ordering the sea to obey him!
Mebs, London, England

I think your report must be missing vital parts of the legislation. Nearly all emails (and mails) are 'unsolicited' in that they are not requested. Before we can really comment we ought to know what is 'spam' (surely not all mails or even 'direct mail' advertising) and what is 'unsolicited'.
Adrian, Cobham, Surrey

This is such a difficult one as the internet is such a wonderful thing. Spam is more than just a pain in the proverbial. There are too many who use these means to con people - that's when it gets serious. I doubt that regulations will help, for my part I use delete quite a lot.
Deb, Melksham, UK

Whilst the new UK laws will go some way to combating spam in this country, the vast majority comes from outside the UK from places that have no regulation. The problem is not going to go away unless international agreements are made. As we have seen with environmental laws, it's ok for the UK government to legislate effectively, but will have little effect on the overall situation.
Kevin G, Manchester




VOTE RESULTS
Should spam be banned?
Yes
93%
No
7%
8083 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Vote now closed



SEE ALSO:
Top UK sites 'fail privacy test'
11 Dec 03  |  Technology


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