Spam's End Is Near, Says United Nations

Gretchen Gallen
GENEVA – The United Nations officially got involved in the global war on spam Tuesday, offering a solution that if adopted by governments and software companies could end the spam epidemic in two years.

The UN's involvement in the spam war comes at the behest of anti-spam advocacy groups who claim that if drastic measures aren't taken, spam will soon drive millions of users away from the Internet.

Officials running a three-day U.N. meeting told a news conference that porn, phishing and other forms of Internet fraud facilitated by spammers could effectively kill off Internet commerce if the problem isn't addressed and solutions applied swiftly.

"If we don't work together," said Robert Shaw, Internet strategy expert for the UN. "We may see millions of people abandoning the net entirely out of frustration and disgust."

Representatives for the UN are proposing strict legislation that would give governments the power to hold Internet service providers responsible for facilitating the circulation of spam. There would also be information compiled on all companies and individuals engaged in spamming in order to enforce criminal prosecutions on a global level.

According to the International Telecommunications Union, the spam scourge is costing the world an estimated $25 billion each year in fraud, worker productivity and network damage from viruses.

"If we achieve full international cooperation among governments and software companies, this plague which affects so many of us in our everyday life will be defeated in short order," said Robert Horton, Australia's top regulator.

So far the UN initiative has produced a memorandum of understanding between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia agreeing to share information on spammers, cooperate in tracking spammers, exchange evidence, facilitate law enforcement against spammers, and coordinate enforcement against international spam violations.

“Illegal spam does not respect national boundaries,” said Timothy Muris, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, in a statement. “This agreement is an important next step to help law enforcers leverage resources to combat illegal spam.”

The MOU also includes an agreement for representatives from those three countries to meet in October in London to discuss anti-spam enforcement efforts.