Multilayered approach to spam required, specialist says

Two seminars to be held in New Zealand this week will chew over the issue of spam and whether legislation will provide a quick solution.

Hosted by e-mail filtering company Surf Control, the session "spam epidemic -- the latest cures" will look at what can be done to fight the rising tide of unsolicited commercial e-mail or spam.

Brad Ward, advisor in the IT policy branch of the Ministry of Economic Development (MED), will discuss his views on the matter - Ward is in hot demand following his talk to the NetSafe II conference on the same subject (Online safety conference "largest in the world").

"The Minister of Communications Paul Swain and his associate minister David Cunliffe have asked us to put together a discussion paper on the matter and that'll be happening in the next couple of months and that will look at the hypothesis of New Zealand introducing anti-spam legislation."

However, Ward warns that legislation isn't the only solution to the spam problem and won't be a magic bullet.

"Obviously enforcement is an issue. The Australians have already indicated that the legislation will have little impact on the amount of spam initially."

Ward says the MED is in constant contact with the Australian National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE), which is behind recent moves to legislate against spam there.

Ward says the MED discussion paper will look at work done in Europe and the proposed legislation in Australia. The MED is closely monitoring what's going on overseas.

"It's getting that discussion paper out there and getting feedback and looking at the output from there."

Ward says that estimates on spam traffic volumes are at best hit and miss, however anecdotal evidence puts only 1 percent of New Zealand spam originating inside New Zealand. Similar Australian statistics are slightly higher -- Australian-sourced spam accounts for around 4 percent of all spam in Australia.

"But you've got to look to your own house first - once they've got the legislation in place and are taking care of their own spammers then they can say to other countries you have to do something about your spam problem."

Ward believes initiatives like the code of practice for ISPs have a huge role to play in reducing the traffic in spam.

"It's a multi-layered approach -- legislation, industry self-regulation and technology as a backstop to catch whatever sneaks through."

The Wellington session is taking place at the James Cook Grand Chancellor and the Auckland session at the Carlton Hotel.

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