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China may soon cease to be a haven for spammers or rogue Internet pharmacies. The China Internet Association has said it is going to set up a special anti-spam task force to deal with such email abusers.

The Association warned that an explosion of "reactionary spam" forms a threat to political and social stability and that "illegal elements" use spam to spread all kinds of deceitful advertisements or promote sales that are clearly prohibited by Chinese laws.

For years, anti-spam activists have been complaining about the torrent of spam originating from or relayed through Chinese servers. There are hundreds of thousands of poorly configured mail servers all over China, which are hijacked by spammers to distribute junk mail. Some Chinese ISPs even make profit by hosting spam-advertised websites.

Speaking at the All Party Internet Group Spam Summit in London recently, Steve Linford, director and founder of Spamhaus, said that some 100 foreign spammers have set up operations in Beijing, paying ISPs rock bottom prices to distribute email. In the past, dictionary attacks on Hotmail, attempts to harvest thousands of emails at once, were originating from servers operated by American spammers in Beijing.

Many Chinese telecom operators and their downstreams are binning complaints, and some Chinese ISPs have even closed their postmaster addresses to stop complaints reaching them.

Many system administrators in Europe and the US are now blocklisting Chinese IP addresses by default. As a result, messages from government trade bodies, diplomatic and company email won't come through either.

"The Chinese have for too long thought that its size is an advantage as no one would want to block (potentially) a quarter of the world's population," a posting to Usenet reads. "But having all those spammers in one place makes it a no-brainer."

The anti-spam task force will certainly address these issues. China's National People's Congress last year already called for new laws to make sending spam illegal in China, but so far the problem has worsened. Even China's own Internet users are finding that most of their messages these days are junk mail. ®

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