Singapore Law: New SPAM laws… itsSerious

….Mr Andrew Peters, Asia-Pacific regional director of Pacific West
Communications, told Today: “The issue is a non-Singaporean one,
primarily. But all it takes is some good spam filtering software … Spam
here is not that serious compared to other countries, but introducing
legislation shows that Singapore takes the issue seriously.”…

FIRST STEP TO CURBING SPAM PEST

Friday April 13, 2007

Lee U-Wen
Today Newspaper – Singapore

….Mr Andrew Peters, Asia-Pacific regional director of Pacific West
Communications, told Today: “The issue is a non-Singaporean one,
primarily. But all it takes is some good spam filtering software … Spam
here is not that serious compared to other countries, but introducing
legislation shows that Singapore takes the issue seriously.”…

IT IS a much-anticipated piece of legislation meant to put some curbs on
that expensive menace to email users.

Junk mail, or spam, costs the economy more than $23 million a year in
productivity losses and is the subject of 15,000 complaints received every
month by the three major Internet service providers here.

But mobile phone and email users should not expect the Spam Control Act –
approved by Parliament yesterday – to put an end to their spam woes
anytime soon. Indeed, they will find that much of the onus of keeping junk
mail in check lies on their own shoulders.

As Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts Dr Lee Boon Yang
stressed, the Act is “not a magic bullet to eradicate all spamming
activities overnight”.

The Bill sets out basic requirements for legitimate direct electronic mass
marketing, and provides civil recourse for any affected persons against
spam with a Singapore link.

It is more, perhaps, in the nature of a strong signal to the world. Four
in five spam messages received here originate overseas, according to an
Infocomm Development Authority study.

“My ministry is not only acting to deter international spammers from
exploiting Singapore’s world-class telecommunications infrastructure as a
base for spamming, but we are also stating clearly that we are ready to
address the global problem of spam with other infocomm nations of the
world,” said Dr Lee.

Users who do not want to continue receiving spam must unsubscribe. All
businesses sending out such messages must provide such an avenue,
structured in a “consumer-friendly” fashion, and act on requests to
unsubscribe within 10 days.

But this “opt-out” approach worried Member of Parliament Mr Lim Biow Chuan
(Marine Parade GRC), who felt it would “unwittingly legislate spam” as
consumers did not have to agree to receiving the messages.

“This places an unfair burden on consumers to unsubscribe from spam,” he
said.

Ms Penny Low (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) pointed out that many computer users
were afraid to reply to spam as it simply confirmed to the spammers that
their email accounts were active.

In more serious cases, a person can seek an injunction from the courts, or
damages of up to $25 per message, up to a $1 million cap. They may also
sue for actual damages if they can prove their losses were much greater.

All local businesses must tag their e-messages with the acronym “ADV”, for
advertisement, so users can decide whether to open the message. Exceptions
are made for public emergency bulk messages and non-commercial messages
that promote charitable causes.

But some people point out that legitimate local marketeers who
conscientiously tag their messages would likely be routed to “trash”
folders, while hardcore spammers would avoid such traps.

Estimating that just 1 per cent of the unsolicited mail she gets is local,
West Coast GRC’s Madam Ho Geok Choo said it was not fair to go after that
small group, “whose crime appears to be promoting local and legitimate
products and services”.

But Dr Lee said his ministry had stopped short of making spamming a
criminal offence as “spammers generally don’t act with malicious intent”.
Instead, the new Act complements two existing laws – the Computer Misuse
Act and the Telecommunications Act, which deal with more “serious and
malicious offences” such as crippling communication services.

Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong, who specialises in Internet laws, noted that
laws did not guarantee the amount of spam would decrease.

A similar Act was introduced in the United States in 2005, but despite
this, spam as a percentage of all emails rose from 50 per cent to 80 per
cent a year later, Mr Siew said, as the amount of spam generated worldwide
“continued to increase”. He added that the biggest gap in Singapore’s Act
was that it applied only to spam from here.

Mr Andrew Peters, Asia-Pacific regional director of Pacific West
Communications, told Today: “The issue is a non-Singaporean one,
primarily. But all it takes is some good spam filtering software … Spam
here is not that serious compared to other countries, but introducing
legislation shows that Singapore takes the issue seriously.”

Dr Lee said his ministry would adopt a “multi-pronged approach” to the
issue, using a mixture of public education, industry self-regulation,
international collaboration and legislation. The Act is just ” a first
step”, he said, and there would be future modifications to make it more
effective in addressing a growing problem.

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