UN Aims to End Spam 'Epidemic' by 2006

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International cooperation in the fight against spam could help eliminate the problem in two years, the United Nations said last week.

During a three-day meeting in Geneva organized by the UN's technology arm, the International Telecommunication Union, representatives of 60 countries worked to forge a common anti-spam strategy for governments and businesses worldwide.

"It's a disease which has spread around the world," said meeting chairman Robert Horton, according to news reports. "We have an epidemic on our hands which we need to control."

The ITU set 2006 as a target date for controlling spam through common legislative approaches and technical cooperation by spam-filtering companies. According to Brightmail, 65 percent of worldwide e-mail traffic in June was spam. The UN estimates spam has an annual global cost of $20.5 billion, including IT costs, lost productivity and help desks.

International cooperation has long figured in discussions of combatting spam. On July 2, the Federal Trade Commission signed an agreement with its counterparts in the United Kingdom and Australia to share information and cooperate in tracking down and prosecuting spammers.

FTC chairman Timothy Muris told a Senate hearing in May that the commission needed the ability to cooperate more closely with other countries' law enforcement agencies regarding fraud and spam cases.

Forging international cooperation is made difficult by the divergent views on what constitutes spam. The European Union, for example, bans all unsolicited commercial e-mail, while the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States focuses on fraudulent e-mail. Spam-filtering company Commtouch recently reported that the United States is the source for 56 percent of the world's spam.

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