Legislation & technology: a coordinated approach toward achieving effective anti-spam law enforcement

Matthew Prince Unspam LLC & John Marshall Law School

Around the world more than 75 governments have passed anti-spam laws. Governments have tried both opt-in and opt-out regimes. Laws have required senders to provide labels or valid return addresses. Regulations have mandated truthful subject lines or insisted that senders confirm their identities. Governments have passed a various combinations of these regulations to express the popular anti-spam sentiment. Unfortunately, the common feature of nearly all of these laws is their failure to ebb the rising tide of spam.

Much of the criticism of these anti-spam laws has focused on the watered-down language they typically contain. For example, in the United States the so-called CAN-SPAM Act allows spammers to continue sending until a recipient affirmatively ‘opts-out’ of receiving more messages. This criticism, however, has missed an essential point: the language of anti-spam legislation is not what has been critical to such a law's success. Instead, the resources provided to prosecutors, including adequate staff, sufficient fiscal support, and a means for accurate and timely data collection and analysis, weigh most heavily on whether successful and effective prosecutions will be brought under the law.

This talk will focus on novel legislative and technical approaches that can provide prosecutors the resources they need to enforce anti-spam laws successfully. Specifically, the talk will analyse two recently passed laws that actually generate funds earmarked for anti-spam enforcement without taxing a single email recipient.

The talk will also examine a technical resource we have recently created to help provide prosecutor’s the data they need: Project Honey Pot (www.projecthoneypot.org). The Project is a volunteer effort with website administrators participating in more than 70 countries. It distributes thousands of spamtrap email addressees every day that can be used to track spammers. The Project brings resources previously available only to the largest ISPs to prosecutors worldwide.

Attendees will come away understanding not only of the actual requirements of anti-spam laws around the world, but also what they can do to help marshal technical and legal resources that are required for successful enforcement of any anti-spam law.


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