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Authorities get on top of spam Down Under

Industry code a world first

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Australia has cracked down on junk mail with an industry code for tackling spam.

Under the new code, internet service providers (ISPs) will bear some of the responsibility for helping fight spam. Service providers must offer spam-filtering options to their subscribers and advise them on how to best deal with and report the nuisance mail. ISPs will also be compelled to impose "reasonable" limits on subscribers' sending email.

More than 680 ISPs will be affected in Australia; global email operators like MSN Hotmail and Yahoo! will also be hit by the legislation.

The code, which goes further than the 2003 Spam Act, is due to come in to force in July. The previous act focused more on the spammers themselves.

Australian regulators could impose huge fines on ISPs for failing to help stem the flood of junk mail that regularly pours into users' inboxes. Under the 2003 Act, spammers face fines of up to AUD$1m for offences; the new code could see regulators seeking up to AUD$10m through federal courts for a breach of the industry code.

The AMCA will carry out compliance checks to ensure the ISPs adhere to the new rules.

Spam is becoming an increasing problem for businesses; aside from the security concerns, nuisance email costs companies in terms of productivity and anti-spam measures. It is now believed to account for some 70 per cent of email.

Australia is one of 32 countries that have anti-spam legislation on their books.

Other anti-spam measures, such as the US Can Spam Act, place the responsibility - and the penalties - on the shoulders of the commercial emailers rather than the ISPs.

Many ISPs have codes of conduct that bar spammers from using their resources, but in March the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) called on ISPs to formulate enforceable codes of conduct to prompt ISPs to enforce penalties against any customer who spams through their network.

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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