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How the UK can stop spam without damaging free speech

Julian D. A. Wiseman

Contents: Introduction, The proposed legislation, The effect of the proposed legislation.

Publication history: Only here. Usual disclaimer and copyright terms apply.


Spam is a modern pestilence. Email boxes overflow with unwanted adverts for loan sharks, pornography and spamming services. Indeed, this author has been particularly afflicted with rubbish from*1, but there are many other guilty parties. Hence this suggestion for legislation that will stop spam, without damaging free speech, and without needing any form of international agreement. Because the author is resident in London, the proposed legislation is written as if it were to become law in the UK.

The proposed legislation

The suggested legislation would work as follows.

The effect of the proposed legislation

In practice, this legislation would eliminate spam globally.

Julian D. A. Wiseman, November 2001

Postscript added March 2002. Some readers have commented that, in practice, some spammers may argue in court that one cannot be forced to pay to discover what is illegal. That objection may or may not be sustainable, but it does suggest a variation on the above. The Home Office would list domain names for a fee, but would not list individual email addresses at all. Stripped of the individual email addresses, the list could be and would be published. Then, once a domain has been on the list for 28 days, it would then be an offence to cause spam to be send to that domain. This variation gives more power to webmasters than to individual users, but would still eliminate most spam. It also has the advantage of removing the need for secrecy of the list, and all the computer-security that would entail.

*1 It seems to be impossible to have one’s address removed from’s list. In general I detest litigiousness, but an exception is appropriate here: if anyone is starting a class-action lawsuit against or its employees, count me in. All my financial winnings will go to charity; I’ll only keep the pleasure of learning of their insolvency.

Postscript for UK residents, who might like to know that it is possible to avoid both junk snail-mail and telemarketing calls. Contact the Mailing Preference Service, Freepost 22, W1E 7EZ; and the Telephone Preference Service on 0845 0700707.

Postscript for US residents: register your telephone numbers at and telemarketers musn’t call. Meanwhile, forests are felled to put unwanted junk through my front door. Happily, much of it comes with a freepost envelope: I send my do-not-mail requests at their expense.

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