ISPs turn up the heat on spammers

Spammers beware: Major e-mail service providers are sick and tired of you clogging their networks, annoying their customers and eating up their revenue as they attempt to stop your officious ways.

"We are fed up with spam and we HATE it as much as you do!" America Online Inc. (AOL) wrote in a message posted to its members this week.

In fact, AOL is so annoyed with spam that it announced the formation Thursday of a special anti-spam task force, as well as preparations to roll out new spam fighting tools and advocate for tougher laws to combat the unsolicited e-mail plague.

AOL's declaration of war comes on the heels of news that Microsoft Corp. is corralling even more suspected spammers to court. The Redmond, Washington, software maker filed suit against unnamed defendants in a California court last week for allegedly harvesting the e-mail addresses of users of its Hotmail service for the purpose of spamming. [See, "Microsoft to fight spam with subpoenas" Feb. 20.]

Furthermore, a Microsoft representative said this week that the company would be lodging even more suits against spammers soon.

And now AOL is also taking spammers to task, which is not surprising considering that the heavyweight ISP said that its filters are blocking 780 million pieces of junk mail a day from e-mail users' in-boxes.

"We are redirecting ourselves to the spam fight with purpose," said AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham. The company is reporting to its members this week on its efforts to stop spam as feedback to its recently launched "Tell Us" campaign, Graham said.

"Fighting spam was far and away the top issue for our members," Graham said.

The company is taking a multifaceted approach to the issue, through the courts, lobbying for tough legislation and working with other ISPs.

"While there is no silver bullet we are taking a double-barreled approach," Graham said.

The onslaught of spam, which some researchers predicated would overtake legitimate e-mail in users' in-boxes in coming years, has become a serious focus for e-mail users and service providers in recent months. In fact, the deluge even led to the first-ever spam filter conference held in Cambridge, Massachusetts last month.

While experts currently disagree on which solutions for stopping spam are best, they do agree that user pressure on ISPs is one of the most effective ways to turn up the heat on spammers. If the news from Microsoft and AOL this week are any indication, that appears to be true.

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Scarlet Pruitt

IDG News Service
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