China signs on to international antispam pact

The Chinese government has joined an international antispam effort started by the U.K. and U.S. governments, the U.K.’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said Monday.

China’s decision to back the London Action Plan on Spam Enforcement Collaboration came after months of discussion between government officials in the U.K. and China.

“We have long been keen to engage with China on the issue of spam, in particular because China is probably the second biggest source of spam in the world,” said Alun Michael, the U.K.’s e-commerce minister, in a written statement.

According to DTI, up to 20 percent of all spam, or unsolicited e-mail, may originate in China where computers and servers are used by spammers outside China without users’ knowledge. If true, this would make China the second-largest source of spam after the U.S., it said.

The London Action Plan, which was launched in October 2004, calls for increased investigative training, the establishment of points of contact between government authorities, and the creation of an international working group to coordinate the enforcement of antispam regulations. The initiative was intended to expand on international antispam efforts led by organizations, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, DTI said.

China’s representative to the London Action Plan will be Union Network Beijing, a group that was created to help enforce antispam regulations and fight the spread of computer viruses, DTI said.

China is not new to the fight against spam. In recent years, the Chinese government and industry, including the government-backed Internet Society of China, have stepped up efforts to crack down on unsolicited e-mails and spammers. To date, Chinese government bodies involved in antispam efforts include the Ministry of Information Industry (MII), which oversees the country’s technology industry, and the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), which oversees the country’s police force, among others.

DTI said the London Action Plan has already made progress in the fight against spam, citing a February operation called Spam Sweep that involved government agencies and companies in 30 countries. In that operation, 300,000 spam e-mails were analyzed, resulting in 300 cross-border antispam investigations, DTI said.

In addition, the London Action Plan conducted a recent operation called Spam Zombies that involved sending letters to more than 3,000 Internet service providers, asking them to take measures to prevent their computers from unknowingly being used by spammers to send unsolicited e-mails.

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