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There are fears that a tit-for-tat transatlantic Net war could break out after a US ISP blocked all email bearing a .co.uk address. A New Jersey ISP, IDT, took the summary action last week after receiving spam which it traced to Leeds University. Not just content with blocking the source of the spam from Leeds University, IDT went one step further and barred email from a whole nation. An IDT technician told New Scientist that the action was taken in response to "massive spamming" of "pornographic material." But a spokeswoman for Leeds University said that the allegation concerning the distribution of porn was simply untrue. She explained that someone outside the university had breached mail server security before sending the offending spam about a get-rich-quick scheme. The security hole has now been fixed, she said before criticising the way IDT handled the whole affair. "We have no record of receiving any complaints from IDT," she said. "It would have been nice if IDT had had the courtesy to contact us first." Omar Shabka, a director at London-based ISP Bibliotech, which is currently pursuing spammers through the courts in the US, said: "I hope no reprisals come from this action. To block an entire nation is short-sighted and not quite in keeping with what the Net is all about." And he warned that IDT might come to regret its action if spammers decide to target the ISP in the hope it will take similar blocking action against other countries. Indeed, if IDT took the same high-handed manner with all spam, it may as well close down its operation right now and cease trading. For there's no way it could continue carrying mail generated from .com domains since this is where most of the world's porn originates. If it doesn't, it could be accused of hypocrisy and having double standards. No one from IDT was available for comment by press time. ®

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