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Spammers! Arentchasickofem?

Hello everyone!

Back in February this year we publicly declared war on spam by calling on the Australian Federal Government to follow Europe's lead and simply outlaw it.

According to CAUBE (the Coalition Against Unsolicited Bulk Email) the amount of spam on the Net increased sixfold during 2001 - and it's gone absolutely ballistic all this year.

Right now even the Federal Government modestly admits that up to 20% of all emails received by Australians are spams (reality: more like 60% to 90%). They also admit that the volume of spam is now so bad it's causing some web servers to buckle and fall over, threatening the infrastructure of the Net itself.

What's worse, most of this plague is being pushed into Australia's email in-boxes by foreign crooks: Nigerian money scammers, pornographers, get-rich-quick con-men and alternative health hucksters. And nearly all of these frauds live in the USA, spamming the planet from US or Asian web servers because they can do it from there with impunity.

 
No Guts - And Certainly No Glory...


To their undying discredit, US authorities have consistently refused to take any hard, truly meaningful action against spammers.

In a country that runs by the rule "what's good for business is good for America", US legislators continually allow self-interest to triumph over public interest and to rule in favour of protecting the rights of criminals above the rights of decent, ordinary citizens.

Last month the US Federal Trade Commission - which now receives more than 10,000 forwarded spams a day from angry US consumers who are just as fed up with spammers as we are - undertook a token action against a handful of the more objectionable companies.

However - shackled by the USA's weak laws and pro-business bias - they didn't make much of a dent.

 
Europe Shows The Way


By contrast, the European Union has now enacted some of the strictest privacy laws in the world.

Unlike America, Europeans maintain that the rights of ordinary consumers supersede the rights of Big Business and they've now effectively outlawed spam in any form (and that includes sending unsolicited messages through your fax, SMS system, letterbox or anywhere else that junk marketing messages might enter your life).

US lobby groups have always said that outlawing spam in the way Europe has done is impossible. That it would prove too costly. That it would hobble business. That it would ruin industries. That it would lead to the end of Life As We Know It (.....blah blah blah)

But the European Union is as big - if not bigger - than the USA.

And they've now not only proven that it can be done, but also shown that the excuses the US lobbyists has been offering about why it supposedly can't be done are utter hogwash.

 
NOIE Seeks Answers


Right now the National Office of the Information Economy (NOIE) is asking Australians for their opinion on spam and how the whole spam issue should be handled.

You can even fill out an online questionnaire in about 5 minutes if you want to have your say on the matter (but do so before April 19th, 2002).

While the intention of NOIE is no doubt honourable, what worries us about this "public consultation" process - and should worry you too if you loathe spam as much as we do - is that the Federal Government seem to be acting on a few patently false assumptions as they wrestle with formulating their approach to the spam problem.

  • One false assumption is that businesses have an inalienable right to foist their marketing information on you, whether you want it or not. (Excuse us, but where did that idea come from?)
      

  • Another is that the "opt-out" system that has been tried (and which has comprehensively failed) in the USA should be tried in Australia too.
      

  • And a third is that the crooks behind the global spamming industry will be only too happy to "self regulate"

If you read NOIE's online questionnaire closely - along with background information about the public consultation process displayed on their web site - you'll see all three of these assumptions on clear public display.

Naturally, this fundamental bias must raise questions about just how well (or otherwise) NOIE is approaching the task.

Sadly, our Federal Government tends to take its lead from the USA these days. This blinkered view means that it also tends to overlook the far more civilised approach Europe takes to dealing with many social ills.

All the same, NOIE will be issuing recommendations about how Australia should to deal with spam in a few months from now.

And - bet your boots! - we'll be keeping you (and our other 60,000 to 80,000 monthly readers) posted.
 

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