Chinese authorities yesterday committed themselves to UK/US-led international efforts to combat spam. China is the world's second largest source of unsolicited emails according to the Spamhaus organization.

At a ceremony attended by British Ambassador Christopher Hum and US Federal Trade Commissioner Jon Leibowitz, China announced it would join international enforcement efforts against spam by adopting the London Action Plan on Spam Enforcement Collaboration.

China is thought to be the second largest source of spam after the United States, with about 20% of all spam. Most of this spam, however, seems to be generated by 'zombie computers', or 'botnets', used by spammers outside of China without the users' knowledge.

UK E-Commerce Minister Alun Michael welcomed the news, which comes after months of discussion between the UK and Chinese authorities. He said "We have long been keen to engage with China on the issue of spam, in particular because China is probably the second biggest source of spam in the world.

"China engaged constructively in the Asia-Europe Meeting on E-Commerce in London in February. Now, as China reaches the 100 million Internet users mark, we welcome this opportunity to work with China to make the Internet safer for users.

"During our Presidency of the EU and beyond, we will continue to intensify our activities with Chinese and other partners to address spam and viruses, and therefore contribute to the continued development and safety of the global information society."

The Plan calls for increased investigative training, the establishment of points of contact in each agency to respond quickly and effectively to enforcement inquiries, and the creation of an international working group on spam enforcement. It builds on the earlier efforts of international organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) toward building international cooperation on spam. The London Action Plan has had considerable effect in recent months.

In just one day in February this year, operation 'Spam Sweep' involved agencies and industry in more than 30 countries simultaneously analysing 300,000 spam emails, resulting in more than 300 in depth cross-border investigations. Most recently, operation 'Spam Zombies' was part of a worldwide effort to prevent hijacking of computers by spammers without the users' knowledge. Letters were sent by 20 members of the London Action Plan and 16 additional government agencies to more than 3000 Internet service providers encouraging them to take zombie-prevention measures.

The London Action Plan was initially launched after a conference on spam enforcement hosted jointly by the UK Office of Fair Trading and the US Federal Trade Commission in London in October 2004. It was the first international forum to focus exclusively on spam enforcement. Now constituted of over 30 consumer protection, data protection, and telecommunications agencies and more than a dozen private sector representatives, spanning four continents, the LAP organises regular virtual conferences for its members to exchange best practice and prepare joint actions against spammers.

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