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Last Updated: Friday, 22 July, 2005, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
Spam haters given right of reply
Spam in e-mail inbox, BBC
If you have an e-mail account you get spam
Now you have a chance to let spammers know how you feel about junk mail.

Israeli technology firm Blue Security has set up a scheme to batter spam websites with thousands of complaints.

The plan is to fill order forms on spam websites offering pills, porn and penile health tonics with complaints about the products advertised for sale in junk messages.

The plan has been criticised by other anti-spam workers who say it amounts to vigilantism.

Complaint forum

"The internet four or five years ago was a friendly, peaceful experience," said Eran Reshef, chief executive and founder of Blue Security.

"A bunch of spammers decided they were going to make money and to do that they were willing to ruin that experience for everyone."

You are complaining as an individual about spam messages that are sent to you
Eran Reshef, Blue Security
"We've been using passive anti-spam methods for the last four to five years and it's not working," he said.

Those signing up for Blue Security's Do-Not-Intrude registry can have messages sent to up to three e-mail addresses monitored.

As well as these e-mail addresses, Blue Security will create some fake addresses to tempt spammers into sending more messages.

Any junk mail sent to these real and fake addresses is analysed for accompanying websites where people can buy the goods or services being offered.

A software program downloaded by those signing up then visits the spammers' websites and fills in any online order forms it finds with complaints about the unsolicited mail.

"You are complaining as an individual about spam messages that are sent to you," said Mr Reshef. "By sending you an e-mail, [the spammers] have invited you to respond."

Blue Security's hope is that the complaints will clog websites and make the job of being a spammer more expensive and time consuming. Mr Reshef said the scheme would only prove effective if it got a few hundred thousand people signed up.

'Vigilante approach'

In the opening days of the scheme, several thousand people have signed up.

Mr Reshef said it was trying hard to ensure that complaints only went to spammers.

"We take a lot of measures to make sure this is not a Joe job and we are not hounding innocent third parties," he said.

Mr Reshef defended the idea against accusations that it was vigilantism or a type of Denial-of-Service attack aimed at knocking websites offline. Spam sites were warned before complaints were sent, said Mr Reshef.

Logo of Lycos Europe anti-spam campaign, Lycos Europe
Lycos shut down its anti-spam campaign following complaints
"This is very different from computerised attack on sites you pick at random," he said. "What we have done here is take the approach of consumer protest and boycotts and moved it to the internet."

But the scheme has been criticised by John Levine, a board member of the anti-spam Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail.

"It's the worst kind of vigilante approach," Mr Levine told the AP news service. "Deliberate attacks against people's websites are illegal."

In late 2004 Lycos Europe courted controversy with a "Make Love Not Spam" campaign that bombarded known spam websites with data traffic. The scheme was scrapped following complaints that it skirted the edge of the law and encouraged vigilantism.


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