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Re: Proposed EU Directive on Electronic Commerce

  • From: Richard Kettlewell < >
  • Date: Fri, 15 Jan 99 11:22:29 +0000 (GMT)

Piet Beertema writes:
>     If the spammers are forced to use a generic label, e.g. a mail
>     header saying "X-UCE: Yes", or perhaps include "UCE" in the
>     subject line, that would make server side spam filtering a
>     breeze and that would mean most major ISPs would filter away
>     to their hearts content, which in turn would likely reduce the
>     effectiveness of spamming to such a degree that the whole
>     practice of spamming/UCE suddenly becomes unprofitable. If it
>     does become unprofitable, spamming will more or less cease,
>     and we will get back the resources that are currently swamped
>     by having to deal with all the UCE.
> I sense a truly immense lot of wishful thinking here.
> First of all there's a wild variety of user mailers,
> lots of which don't allow users to add X- header lines.
> Go tell it the developers of those mailers.

So perhaps it would simply become illegal to send ``commercial
communications'' using those mailers.  As an analogy: it's already
illegal to drive on the road with motor vehicles lacking certain
features - why shouldn't similar logic apply here?

> Sure enough, adding "UCE" to a Subject: line is a lot
> easier and works with all user mailers. However, it's
> *not* up to ISP's to filter on Subject: lines! And you'd
> better not overestimate the capabilities of the average
> user: filtering on solely the *presence* of the string
> "UCE" is extremely risky, as you might well filter out
> regular mail too.

I believe this is less of a problem than you make out.  If `"UCE" in
the subject line' were adopted as a standard, then I'm sure we'd see
the popular mailers not only having the option to filter on that
standard, but also generating warnings to prevent users accidentally
sending mail that could be interpreted as UCE.

> Second, the EC Directive by definition applies only to
> the EC [Member States]. But reality is that the vast
> majority of the spam comes from the USA, and users out
> there are in no way bound to some EC Directive.

There's plenty of scope for people to agree a common standard, if the
will is there...

> Third, spammers hide themselves and cover their tracks.
> No EC Directive is going to change that.

Granted, the best legislation can do at the moment is to impose stiff

> Fourth, spam will be around as long as people can make
> money out of it. And that includes ISP's.

Also true - but the more effort and more risk that it implies, the
less attractive it will be.

> Fifth, when spammers would be allowed to identify their
> messages with "UCE" or some such, it would by definition
> become a marketing tool, and no longer be spam. Hence
> people would *have to* indicate whether or not they
> want to receive it. Which means that the filtering would
> have to be done by the user, *not* by his/her ISP: it
> might well even become illegal for the ISP to do such
> filtering! And that in turn means such "legal spam"
> messages would *have to* be delivered to each and every
> individual end user, so we would *not* get back the
> resources currently wasted on spam.

I don't understand why you think that a user wouldn't be allowed to
instruct their ISP not to deliver messages matching a certain pattern
to them - why should the fact that it is legal to send a message
compel someone to receive it?


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