The Great Dutch Firewall

ComputerWorld reports that spam security firm Postini “spotted 7 billion spam e-mails in November, up from 2.5 billion in June.” And 80% of it is apparently being generated by 200 criminal gangs worldwide. But that’s not the part I found most interesting. Despite common wisdom that anti-spam legislation can’t work, evidence to the contrary:

She pointed to the Netherlands as an example of how the current legal regime can be used to cut spam. Holland’s spam-busting unit, known by the initials OPTA, has just five full-time staff and $747,000 worth of equipment, but it has succeeded in cutting spam by 85 percent … Finland was also singled out for praise. A filtering system there has cut the amount of spam to 30 percent of all e-mail, from 80 percent two years ago.

Of course there’s more to this than mere laws, which have no teeth against untrackable crime rings. To make that kind of dent, you basically need to firewall a country — to encircle it with spam filtering hardware. And that kind of government intervention in the “free” internet sounds spookily similar to the Great Firewall of China. Kind of the difference between a benevolent dictator and fascism, I suppose. I might be inclined to go with the benevolent dictator in this case.

Music: Beck :: Broken Drum

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6 Replies to “The Great Dutch Firewall”

  1. I am reminded of the oft-quoted “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” (attributed to Franklin, but apparently he denied writing it, though he paraphrased it later.)

    I’m not willing to let the government put that kind of firewall around the net. I think holding companies responsible for spam they pay for, and holding companies responsible for the crappy, insecure software and OSs they publish would do as well. That, and prosecuting the hell out of spammers when they are caught.


  2. I personally don’t see having the govt erect a spam firewall around the U.S. as being that much different from having a police force or military. Yes, there’s potential for abuse, but I’m increasingly ready to see that kind of large-scale official protection from do-badders.

    I think the lesson from the botnets is that security officials have thrown up their hands and admitted that the botnets can’t be taken down. Prosecuting spammers requires finding them first – a task that’s become virtually impossible.

  3. Ah, but what about all that traffic? You’re just stopping it at the perimeter, and because you can’t see the problem it’s gone, right? The threat of spam is all the bytes it uses as a combined force. The nuisance of spam is seeing it in your inbox. So the domestic network is much improved, but the big international backbones are still clogged…

  4. Nate, true enough, but bandwidth-wastage-wise, I dont think this would be as big a problem as all those people subscribing to podcasts without actually watching them, or the fact that bittorrent usage accounts for 2/3 of all internet bandwidth.

    No, it’s not desirable to just block it rather than stop it, but until someone comes up with a way to stop it, blocking is our only option.

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