Tide may be turning in war on spam

Tide may be turning in war on spam

Deborah Platt Majoras, head of the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC), said yesterday that data from Internet service providers suggested the deluge of unwanted Emails hawking sex, drugs and get-rich quick schemes may be waning.

"Spam has been a huge problem around the world, not just in these two continents," Majoras told journalists on a visit to Europe.

"Recently the ISPs seem to think that less spam is actually reaching consumers' mailboxes. That's the first good news I've heard on spam -- if it's true -- since I started."

Better Email screening had helped cut spam, she said.

In December America Online, the world's largest online service, said its spam filters blocked an average of 1.2 billion Emails a day in late 2004 -- about 50 percent less than a year earlier.

Analysts estimate spam cost Internet providers some $500 million in wasted bandwith last year, and at peaks accounted for more than 80 percent of Internet traffic.

Stopping spam and misleading advertising are priorities for the FTC, alongside policing mergers and competition.

But Majoras, whose agency has nearly 200 cases open against spammers, said enforcement of anti-spam laws was not enough.

"While I'm an optimist by nature, I can't say that I think we're going to whip the spam problem just through enforcement," Majoras said.

"We're still going to have to continue to educate consumers and push the private sector to develop technology to deal with the problem -- in particular to agree on an Email authentication standard so we can know who is sending this Email," she said.

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