Thursday, February 24, 2005

Legislating for Spam

The government is planning anti-spam legislation introducing swingeing fines for sending unwanted messages.

You could arge that this is unnecessary - the BrightMail filtering provided by Xtra passes very few spam messages through to my (old and spammy) mail accounts. The only stuff I seem to get are mailouts from companies I have used (and I guess subscribed to) and the odd individual message from some hopeful looking at my website and wanting a job.

If they do think legislation is needed, then possibly we need some that works. I have thought up a model for this in the past, roughly based on a similar principle to international banking (where banks are allowed into networks like Visa on condition that they play by the rules and (try to) only process genuine transactions).

Here's the scheme:
1. set up a regulatory body with the power to rule on whether a reported message is illegal (subject to appeal to the courts, obviously)
2. allow this body to issue fines and ban offenders from using the Internet for various periods
3. require all NZ ISPs to "know their customers" and be in a position to collect fines / enforce bans, e.g. by having a credit card on file
4. after a suitable grace period, require that NZ ISPs only peer with overseas ISPs that follow the same rules for their direct customers
5. after a further period, require that overseas ISP's peering with NZ in turn enforce "the rules" on their peers
6. Have an opt-out allowing those who need access to dodgy places to gain "whole internet" access (with the obvious caveat that they should expect spam)

So once the scheme is fully in place, anyone sending an unsolicited email can be tracked and fined/banned. We will probably be able to collect the fine and/or enforce the ban. There will be a blacked-out zone of the Internet invisible to NZ - and the spammy will presumably be able to get accounts there.

This would work better if the EU were to do it of course - many ISPs wouldn't worry about not being able to talk to NZ, but few would want to be blacked out from over 300 million people.

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