Stopping Spam: New Study Focuses on Anti-Spam Strategies

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Richard Morrison, 202.331.2273


Washington, D.C., May 21, 2003—A new Competitive Enterprise Institute study on spam email surveys the effectiveness of current user-based countermeasures and laws and suggests additional strategies for stopping unwanted emails through legal and technical solutions to help Internet Service Providers (ISPs).


Spam is the consumer technology issue of the moment. Everyone agrees it is a problem, but there is little agreement on the best solution. And while far more public attention has been focused on how spam affects individual email users rather than ISPs and other large network administrators, the consumer-focused approach is only part of the solution. The consumer is the end of the spam’s journey; its origins lie in the policies and technologies of networks.


“While there is naturally more public sympathy for end users deluged with emails for adult products and pyramid-marketing scams than for the headaches of ISPs, solving most of the ISPs’ problems would probably also solve most of the problem for consumers,” said Senior Policy Analyst and study co-author Solveig Singleton. “The converse is not true, however, meaning that legal and technical solutions with an emphasis on the perspective of ISPs are more likely to be effective for everyone.” 


The study, Spam: That Ill O' the ISP: A Reality Check for Legislators, assesses contractual, technical, and statutory solutions, noting that while there are some effective technical solutions to help consumers and businesses control spam, ISPs, the most seriously affected, have found only partial solutions. It also concludes that effective spam control will come only with innovations in enforcing laws or policies. Many of the provisions of proposed new laws thus far are too broad, but research on deterrence shows none would be helpful without relatively strict enforcement.


The study, written by Solveig Singleton and Hanah Metchis, is available online.



CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government.