Are More Anti-Spam Laws Needed?

There are some laws on the books that make absolutely no sense. For example, a law in Salt Lake County, Utah makes it illegal to carry a violin in a paper bag while you are walking down the street.

But what about a law like the one in Danville, Pennsylvania that mandates all fire hydrants be checked one hour before all fires? The intent of the law is well-meaning; they want to make sure that the fire hydrants will work so firefighters can quickly extinguish the blaze. But good intentions aside, the law is still useless.

The same can be said about many of the spam laws that exist. For example, take the Quebec data protection law. This law was put in place in 1993 to protect the personal information of Quebec’s residents from any organizations doing business in Quebec. Marketing in the city, even electronically, would be considered doing business within the city limits.
California also has a new anti-spam law where the aim is to make commercial emails more traceable and transparent. The law will apply to any business based in the United States that sends email to residents of California.

Like the Pennsylvania fire hydrant law, you can appreciate the fact that someone is trying the make things better but you really have to question whether or not a law with no teeth is really the best way to fight spam.


Exportation of spam

According to reports, the top spam sending countries of 2012 so far have been India, sending 20 percent of all spam messages, followed by Indonesia with 13 percent, South Korea coming in third with 12 percent, and finally Russia who is responsible for 10 percent of all spam messages sent in the first quarter of this year.

With so much spam originating in foreign countries, do we really expect the California Highway Patrol or the Canadian Mounties to pack up and start busting spammers overseas?

Even if the rest of the spam messages sent originated in the United States or Canada where offenders could face legal action, that still leaves more than half (55 percent) of all spam to slip through the cracks of justice.

Just who are the real spammers?

Another flaw with these anti-spam laws lies in the fact that most spammers send these messages out unknowingly.

For years, the United States led the way as the number one originator of spam. It wasn’t that spammers flocked here seeking refuge, it was because so many computers in the US were zombies that sent thousands of spam messages out on the orders of their command and control servers.

So now the nice little old lady who bought a computer so she can video chat with her grandkids and email her friends and family, needs to worry about having her door kicked down and being slapped with monetary fines should her computer be hijacked and send a spam message to an irate resident of California? While a scenario like this may seem a bit overdramatic, it only matches the pulpit beating drama of these anti-spam laws.

Real solutions

If governments were serious about fighting spam they would approach things a bit differently. First off, both the United States and Canada have anti-spam legislation in place to keep legitimate businesses honest. The CAN-SPAM act and the CASL both keep businesses under their jurisdictions from cutting corners and email blasting people at will.

Secondly, they would do something that is much harder to do at a federal level – educate their constituents.

There are so many community based workshops and classes available but rarely do you see anything that teaches people about cyber crime. You would think that something teaching residents how to avoid being a victim might be a class to add.

The individual can do their part as well. Using common sense when it comes to giving up your email address is a start. Simply don’t provide your email address to businesses so freely and don’t be so comfortable posting it online for everyone to see.

The war on spam is not going to be won through over legislation. We only stand a chance if we take away the resources spammers use. When the money dries up and the email lists are stale; when their armies of zombies are struggling to stay alive, that is when we can claim we struck a blow against spam.

Not when we sign our next piece of legislation.

Written by Jeff


  1. Bea Scott · April 25, 2012

    I don’t think we need laws in order to oppose or prevent the spread of spam. As far as regulation of spam is concerned, it was not successful due to its ongoing widespread in the net.

    For me, the most feasible act to counter spam starts with ourselves. It has to be one’s attitude that counts most. Regardless of the fact that we know everything about spam but we do not put them into action, it would still be useless. Vigilant browsing, most specially when giving out personal information should always be observed once online. It’s time to act and let’s get united against spam.

  2. George Caylor · April 25, 2012

    What I’d like to know is how these countries distribute spam domestically. Is India still number one for messages received in India? How much spam in the United States actually comes from the United States? Because that’s the only way these countries can police it. Otherwise you have to look at groups like Interpol to handle these spammers.

  3. Jack Matthews · April 29, 2012

    Any piece of legislation is useless unless enforced consistently.

    I used to market an email marketing software and most of those interested to sign up or purchase are interested in complying with laws and regulations. But, from time to time, a client comes in who’s just interested to send irrelevant messages, albeit harmless, to as many people as possible, regardless whether they’re CAN-SPAM compliant or not.

    But they don’t sound very technologically proficient. In other words, they’re not very adept in eradicating their footprints in the net. It’s so easy to get these guys, if the government just use their (already existent) resources to track these people and made an example of.

    But, number of people loud enough to lobby for the enforcement of those laws have not reached critical mass yet. It’s just like what Annette Benning’s character said in American President, “people care what [lobbyists] tell them to care”. It’s about time a consumer group lobby for us on this issue.

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