US spammers face extradition to UK
Date: October 31, 2003
That'll teach 'em...
British lawmakers hope to use a new tactic to stop the torrent of junk email that floods in from overseas: extradite the mass-mailers and bring them to trial in the United Kingdom.
MP Brian White said on Thursday: "Spammers are no longer an irritant^; they are a threat". The UK last month was the second European Union country after Italy to criminalise spam in a law that comes into effect in December.
But the law has drawn criticism from antispam crusaders who say it will be powerless to stop the flood of messages at the source. The majority of spam originates overseas, and in particular, the US, industry experts say.
While initially, extradition would be used to target spammers, it could be expanded to include suspects in other cybercrime cases such as virus-writing and hacking, White added.
White said he and fellow British lawmakers traveled to the US earlier this month where they talked to FBI officials about extraditing American spammers who violate British laws.
"The FBI's reaction was, subject to the individual case, they couldn't see any problem with it,'' he said. UK and US law enforcement authorities have a long history of cooperation in criminal matters, a relationship that has only grown stronger in the wake of the September 11 attacks in America and their subsequent crackdowns on subversive groups.
The rise of spam, that flood of unsolicited email offering everything from porn and cheap mortgages to a full head of hair, has become an urgent matter for lawmakers around the world.
Lately, law enforcement officials have begun to crack down on spam as a growing amount contains child pornography and as spam messages have been used in a spate of recent fraud scams that target online banking customers.
White said spammers could be extradited if they violated the Computer Misuse Act, a 13-year-old UK law that makes it illegal to tamper with and damage another user's computer.
Therefore, a spammer who sends emails that contain viruses or Trojans, programs capable of taking over another user's computer, would be grounds for extradition, White said.
"The majority of spam is either breaking the law regarding fraud, obscenity, child pornography, or [distribution and marketing] of prescription drugs. We wouldn't get every spammer under all three of those laws, but you could get a majority,'' he added.
The challenge for prosecutors will be building a strong enough case linking spammers with a particular crime as most operate under aliases and have effectively disguised their whereabouts
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