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Australia Tries to Crack Down on Spam E-Mail

February 17, 2002 

Australia launched an investigation on Monday into measures used to counter unsolicited bulk e-mail, or spam, after a dramatic increase in unwanted e-mails in the past year, particularly pornography.

Information Technology Minister Richard Alston said a lobby group opposed to spam, the Coalition Against Unsolicited Bulk Email, estimated that Internet users in Australia received six times more unsolicited mail in 2001 than in 2000.

A survey released by the group last month found that in the first 10 days of 2002 e-mail accounts were flooded with almost 30 percent of the total amount of spam received for all of 2000, with in-boxes receiving everything from investment scams to porn.

''The government is concerned about e-mail messages that are clearly inappropriate or unwanted, in particular those containing illegal, offensive of deceptive content,'' Alston said in a statement. ''This material is often of a pornographic nature.''

He said costs were also of concern as spam contributed to higher costs for Internet service providers and end users and slowed down the Internet.

Alston said consumer and financial watchdogs -- the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission -- regularly investigated e-mail scams involving financial products and therapeutic goods.

A number of self-regulatory and consumer awareness mechanisms also existed to deal with many aspects of spam.

But Alston said the National Office for the Information Economy would conduct an examination into the effectiveness of existing measures, including online legislation that bans child pornography or pedophile activity material.

''The government wants to ensure that, with the continuing expansion of Internet usage in Australia, spamming does not get out of hand,'' Alston said.

Australia has one of the world's highest Internet usage rates with 4.3 million subscribers at the end of September last year, including 3.7 million households -- about half of the nation's total -- and 544,000 business and government subscribers.

By Reuters. Source:

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