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Singapore to make spammers pay - literally

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Singapore yesterday floated plans to fine spammers a small amount for each item of junk mail they send. Officials in the tightly controlled city state reckon fine of between ten cents and one Singapore Dollar ($0.06 to $0.58) for each spam email would deter marketing transgressions. ISPs would be able to sue bulk mailers if they flouted the country's forthcoming anti-spam laws.

Charles Lim, an official in the office of Singapore's Attorney-General, said the government wanted to consult on its plan prior to enacting legislation, which might come into force early next year. For even a modest bulk mail run (100,000) fines would be considerable. Singapore has yet to say how it plans to track down spammers, a far from trivial problem.

Spam currently makes up to 80 per cent of the email sent to the Asian state, the Straits Times reports. The vast majority of this spam tsunami (an estimated 77 per cent) originates from outside the city state. If the rest of the world is anything to go by most of it probably comes from the US, China and South Korea - countries dubbed the 'Spam Axis of Evil' in some quarters.

Although laws in Singapore will do little to protect users in Singapore from spam coming from North America or China, it will at least cause spammers to think twice about setting up shop in Singapore, which prides itself on its hi-tech telecoms infrastructure. Tough on-the-spot fines have helped keep litter off Singapore's streets but keeping its citizens' in-boxes free of junk mail is a far trickier problem.

In fairness, Singapore officials recognise this and are committed to educating users about how to avoid been swamped by spam whilst encouraging feedback on the government's anti-spam plans. Yesterday, the Singapore government launched a website offering a free-trial of anti-spam software, along with advice on dealing with the junk mail problem and a links to a Singapore government consultation paper on the country's proposed anti-spam laws. ®

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