AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo fight spam

Spam is unsolicited commercial e-mail, often sent by fraudulent means, that compromises the quality of consumers’ online experience and burdens consumers and businesses worldwide.

The announcement these three companies have made today is a first step toward a broader online industry effort to address spam. The group will initiate an open dialogue that will include organizations across this industry to drive technical standards and industry guidelines that can be adopted regardless of platform.

The group will initially focus on four key areas to combat spam:

  • Protecting Consumers From Receiving Spam

    To reduce the volume of unwanted e-mail arriving in users’ inboxes, the companies will work with others in the industry to do the following:

    • Prevent the ability of spammers to use deceptive techniques in e-mail headers specifying the e-mail sender, by leveraging existing directories of Internet addresses such as the Domain Name System to better identify the location from which e-mail is originating.
    • Inhibit e-mail from systems determined to be open to unauthorized use (such as open relays, open routers or open proxies)
    • Restrict e-mail that utilizes concealment techniques designed to hide or change the identity of the sender and the source of the e-mail
  • Preventing the Use of E-mail Services to Send Spam

    Together, these companies will focus on solutions that will significantly reduce the ability of spammers to use AOL’s, Microsoft’s and Yahoo!’s e-mail services to send spam. In addition, the group will encourage the adoption of these best practices by others in the industry. To accomplish this, the companies will work with others in the industry to do the following:

    • Eliminate the ability to create fraudulent e-mail accounts in bulk
    • Work to define a mechanism that could allow the exchange of consumer complaints and feedback between e-mail providers
    • Define best practices for antispam e-mail account policies that can be shared across the industry
  • Commercial E-Mail Standards

    AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo! will work together with companies that communicate with consumers and businesses through e-mail to recommend technical approaches, policies and best practices to distinguish legitimate e-mail from spam.

  • Enforcement

    AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo! will continue actively working with law enforcement to enhance their enforcement efforts against spammers who rely on fraudulent means of transmission to circumvent antispam filters or otherwise violate applicable law. The goal of this effort will be to make these spammers more accountable, as well as to deter would-be spammers from using such “outlaw” techniques to send their mail to consumers. The companies will work to accomplish this in the following ways:

    • Development of better mechanisms for preserving electronic evidence relating to the activities of such spammers to facilitate enforcement actions brought by industry and by law enforcement
    • Coordination among ISPs and industry in their respective antispam enforcement efforts to help ensure that resources are most effectively deployed against spam senders who cause the greatest impact on consumers
    • Similar coordination in the referral of spammers for enforcement action by government, including civil enforcement agencies charged with dealing with particular types of spam frauds (such as stock scams and get-rich-quick schemes), and, where appropriate, criminal enforcement

The companies believe that the issue of spam can only be significantly addressed through a comprehensive approach, including technology, responsible customer communications, appropriate legislation, enforcement and consumer education.

AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo! are looking forward to the Federal Trade Commission’s Spam Forum this week as a valuable opportunity to discuss solutions collaboratively. The event provides a forum for industry, government and technology to come together to address the spam problem and restore the integrity of Internet users’ e-mail experience.

Comments

“At AOL, fighting spam is priority number one, because spammers are public enemy number one, both to us and to our members,” said Ted Leonsis, Vice Chairman, America Online. “With this joint announcement, we are making a timely, bold and critical statement: spam is an industry-wide challenge, requiring industry-wide teamwork, in order to yield industry-wide solutions. By cooperating and collaborating together, we can make real progress against this toxin that pollutes the Internet environment.”

“The time has come for competitors and the industry at large to work together to address the burden of spam,” said David Cole, senior vice president of MSN and Personal Services, and antispam executive sponsor at Microsoft. “By bringing together different perspectives and expertise, we have a real opportunity to rebuild trust in e-mail. I’m pleased to see AOL, Yahoo! and Microsoft take this positive step forward.”

“Fighting spam is a priority for Yahoo! because we are committed to delivering to our users the highest-quality products and services,” said Dan Rosensweig, chief operating officer for Yahoo!. “Industry collaboration with AOL, Microsoft and other key stakeholders to collectively address this problem is an important step to helping protect people from spam and to enhance their online experience.”

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