"Internet users who unwittingly send out millions of 'spam' messages should be taken offline until their machines can be cleaned up, four of the nation's largest e-mail providers said Tuesday," Andy Sullivan writes in an article for Reuters. "Spam now accounts for up to 83 percent of all e-mail traffic, costing Internet providers roughly $500 million each year in wasted bandwidth, legal bills and additional customer-service costs... Internet providers should run spam filters on outbound mail and prevent customers from sending out more than 500 messages per day, or 100 per hour, to make sure they're not spamming..."
Unfortunately, as Lauren Weinstein noted in his blog, a limit of 500 messages per day would "obliterate all but the smallest legitimate mailing lists -- unless, one assumes, you pony up extra money for additional e-mail allocations. Spam could turn out to be the holy grail of excuses for ISPs looking for a way to move into the lucrative world of usage-sensitive pricing."
Meanwhile, Stefanie Olsen gave CNET News.com readers a slightly different view of yesterday's announcement: "Yahoo, Microsoft, EarthLink, America Online, British Telecom and Comcast announced a proposal of best practices for filtering and sending email. Among the recommendations are technical methods for authenticating email senders by Internet Protocol address or with digital content signatures... The effort is the latest from the Anti-Spam Technical Alliance, or ASTA, a group formed in April 2003 by the four major ISPs -- Yahoo, Microsoft, EarthLink and AOL... ASTA's proposal also said that ISPs should implement rate limits on outbound email traffic, control automated registration of accounts and close all open relays, which are a big source for email. They also urged ISPs to block or limit email on Port 25, the main thoroughfare for email communications. For consumers, they recommended that all PC users install virus protection and security systems..."