Asia Diary Day 3: Reviewing Spam Laws in Shanghai

During our APAC tour (previously written about here and here), we became more aware of interesting local laws attempting to legislate against spam. Please don’t interpret this as an official legal position (we aren’t lawyers, international or otherwise), but check out these policies:

Singapore: Marketers must mark their messages with the letters “ADV” for advertisement to make it easier for a consumer to direct unwanted mail to the electronic trash bin. Singapore supports “opt-out” mailing – a generally lower bar than requiring “opt-in.” If a consumer opts not to receive additional messages, marketers must stop sending them within 10 days, or face damages of up to SGD $25 for each message, capped at SGD $1 million (Almost $700,000 in US dollars).

Hong Kong: ike Singapore, they support the relatively minimal “opt-out” legislation. They prohibit header forgery, email harvesting and other “illegal” methods to gather addresses and generate spam.

China: They have an “opt-in” requirement for name collection. Also, senders must insert in subject if any part of email program is commercial ( for advertisement). They also have receiver-side legislation. A spam reporting mechanism is required for ISPs. China hosts a national blacklist with IP addresses that generate high complaint rates and an industrial white list for international ISPs (not for marketers). In China it is illegal to use other computers to send email (anti-bot legislation) and falsify header information. The penalty for noncompliance is government fines up to $30K rmb (about $4,000 USD) and the offending IP is added to the government blacklist.

All these laws are well spirited, but inevitably more or less useless in the fight against the rising tide of spam. Spammers won’t tag their messages – only reasonable marketers will comply with these requirements. Also, a large percentage of spam to these countries originates outside of these countries – where the laws do not apply or are impossible to enforce. Technology like reputation, content-scanning, authentication and other tools are steps to stopping the spam problem. Legislation only helps when the bad guys get caught.

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