A redrafted code of practice from the country's internet policy guardians is likely to include a section on spam, with a suggestion that ISPs make sure customers can easily incorporate spam filters with their service.
Some ISPs’ services currently make this difficult, says InternetNZ executive director Peter Macaulay.
"You have to divert your mail from your regular provider through a separate spam-screening service.”
The new draft of the code of practice is due mid-May, and will be sent out for comment to online “service providers” in the broadest sense, Macaulay says. This will include pure hosting organisations and others outside the conventional definition of ISP – “anyone who provides a service in connection with the internet”.
The first draft will be a tidying up of the original document, written in 1996, with no radical new proposals. There will be some suggestions for new topics, of which spam deterrence will certainly be one, Macaulay says.
“We will probably include a section, for example, saying ‘we think this code should tackle spam. Here are some initial ideas on this. What do you think?’
“I’d like eventually to see some language in there to the effect that [signatories] will not tolerate spam generation by their customers, and they will eliminate open relays [which can be used to route spam] – though I don’t think that’s a big issue.”
Other planks to spam prevention will be education of users, ensuring availability of filters and "starting work to shut down the sources of spam" in collaboration with other countries. This means not just the immediate sources of spam messages, often in distant jurisdictions, but the organisations actually selling the goods and services, "which are often in the US, or perhaps even here".
Law has to be approached internationally, but it is up to every country separately to "ensure our own nest is clean", Macaulay says. New Zealand, as a small economy, is well placed to do that. At the same time, we should be aware of the dangers of promulgating ineffective or unnecessarily "draconian" laws.
The new code will be founded on input from the provider community, through an advisory group chosen from that community, he says. The 1996 code was drafted entirely within the Internet Society. Redrafting will also incorporate input from broader business ethics organisations like the Consumers Institute.
One of the likely changes is the name of the document.
“We probably won’t be calling it a code of practice; we want some title that indicates a set of standards to which people voluntarily comply.”
Xtra, the country’s leading ISP, has declined to sign up to the existing code, arguing that it is already adhering adequately to most of its stipulations, and that some aspects, like commercial arrangements between the ISP and its customers, should be a matter of individual choice and competitive appeal, not regulated by an overarching code.
To accommodate those who say they’re already doing enough, the new code will no longer refer to providers “improving” their performance, Macaulay says.