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UN meeting looks to fight spam globally

UN meeting looks to fight spam globally

Seeking to head off abuses of the Internet and other digital services, officials from government, consumer groups and civil society gathered today in Geneva for a United Nations meeting on fighting the scourge of unwanted electronic junk mail, or "spam."

According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN's agency for coordinating global telecom networks and services, "spam has grown into one of the major plagues affecting the digital world," threatening to clog e-mail as well as mobile and instant messaging services with hundreds of millions of unwanted messages each day.

The spamming also results in annual losses to productivity in Europe and the United States of more than $10 billion.

The electronic junk mail ranges from commercial advertising and offensive material to messages that support fraudulent and criminal activities, with service providers, businesses and recipients bearing significant financial costs, ITU says.

The meeting on spam runs through Friday and is part of preparations for the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), to be held in November 2005 in Tunisia.

Last December in Geneva, the Summit's first phase identified spam as a potential threat to the full use of digital services and described it as "a significant and growing problem for users, networks and the Internet as a whole."

Discussions this week among Internet service providers, software companies and government regulators are expected to focus on the scope of the problem, technical solutions, education and awareness, legislation and enforcement, and international cooperation.