Spammers on final warning from minister

Communications Minister Daryl Williams has issued a tough final warning to Australian business to fall into line with the impending Spam Act or suffer the pecuniary consequences at the hands of the Australian Communications Authority (ACA).

Speaking at the Spam Law Implementation Forum, organised by the National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE), Williams told a wide selection of business leaders, Internet service providers and marketing practitioners that the Spam Act would take effect in less than six weeks on April 10, 2004.

Williams said the ACA was currently in the process of "setting up mechanisms to investigate breaches of the legislation", adding that for the Act to work, the government requires "technical countermeasures and partnerships with key industry sectors".

Williams cited figures from antispam vendor Postini assessing the proportion of spam to legitimate traffic at a ratio of 5:6, or 78 percent – a revealing statistic if only because Computerworld's current version of Postini intercepts press releases from the minister's office and department.

Last week the National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE) revealed that enterprise antivirus and antispam vendor Sophos had been selected to assist the government collate real-time technical intelligence on the ebb and flow of spam both in Australia and around the world.

Government officials are also understood to have made a number of diplomatic overtures to establish memoranda of understanding with a view to sharing intelligence with the authorities in nations where spam is believed to be originating. While NOIE is remaining tight-lipped about any such moves, a senior ACA source confirmed that Russia is among the nations with which Australia is seeking a dialogue on spam.

Meanwhile, Williams applauded Microsoft for its recent announcement that it would also lend a hand in fighting bursting in-boxes.

"The government welcomes Bill Gates' announcement of Microsoft's coordinated spam reduction initiative this week. Although we have not had the opportunity to consider the detail of his announcement, we are happy to have the likes of Mr Gates on our team in the fight against spam," Williams said.

Williams, however, declined comment on Gates' recent suggestion that the imposition of a one cent charge per message on e-mail traffic would create an economic deterrent to spammers, saying only that Gates represented a "valuable ally in the war on spam".

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Julian Bajkowski

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