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China plans spam crackdown

World's second-worst offender as source of spam will introduce measures to curb the problem--but critics say they don't go far enough.

China is launching an offensive against spam e-mail, a problem the country has become associated with in recent years.

But critics suggest the effort may achieve very little in its task of limiting the amount of spam leaving and circulating within the country.

The Chinese Ministry of Information will introduce new antispam regulation, and the country has established a center for handling reports of unsolicited e-mail. The initiative will officially be launched on March 30, a representative for the Chinese Embassy in London told

China is the world's second-worst offender in terms of being a source of junk messages, according to a January report from U.K. antivirus company Sophos. In the last three months of 2005, 22.3 percent of all spam originated in China, Sophos said. That volume is still behind the United States, which was responsible for 24.5 percent of junk messages in the same period.

Richard Cox, senior investigator for antispam campaign group Spamhaus, said his experiences within China led him to believe the hard core of spammers who account for the vast majority of junk e-mails will not be deterred by this plan. "This is going to achieve very little," he said.

People in China are increasingly being plagued by growing quantities of spam, which could have been one motivation for the government's move. "From the point of view of the Chinese citizen, this is a good thing, though it is long overdue," Cox said.

Last July, China signed up for the London Action Plan on spam, an international effort to curb the problem.

But Cox said China has to make greater strides towards global cooperation on fighting junk e-mail, noting: "We want them to protect our citizens as well."

He criticized Chinese Internet service providers in particular, saying they must do more to ease the spam problem. However, he did single out China Telecom as an ISP that has actually acted positively to reduce spam.

Will Sturgeon of reported from London.