Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo Take On Spam

The three rivals, which compete for e-mail accounts and other Internet services, are advocating a multi-pronged approach to the war on spam.

Rivals Microsoft Corp., America Online Inc. and Yahoo Inc. issued a rare joint announcement Monday pledging to join forces to fight a common enemy: spam.

The three companies, which compete for e-mail accounts and other Internet services, are advocating a multi-pronged approach to the war on spam, including not only anti-spam technology, but "responsible" customer communications, legislation, enforcement and consumer education.

The plan is to initiate a dialogue with other companies that deal with e-mail to adopt universal technical standards and industry guidelines for blocking spam.

Goals of the three companies include preventing spammers from using deceptive techniques in e-mail headers; blocking e-mail from systems determined to be open to unauthorized use such as open relays, open routers or open proxies; and restricting e-mail that utilizes concealment techniques designed to hide or change the identity of the sender and the source of the e-mail.

Once the companies form best practices to reduce the ability of spammers to use their respective e-mail services to send spam, they plan to encourage the adoption of these best practices by others in the industry, officials of the three companies said.

Objectives would be to eliminate the ability to create fraudulent e-mail accounts in bulk; define a mechanism that could allow the exchange of consumer complaints and feedback between e-mail providers; define best practices for anti-spam e-mail account policies that can be shared across the industry; and recommend technical approaches, policies and best practices to distinguish legitimate e-mail from spam.

Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo are also seeking to develop better mechanisms for preserving electronic evidence relating to the activities of such spammers for enforcement purposes; coordinate with ISPs and other industry players to target the worst spammers; and refer those spammers to government enforcement agencies.

The companies plan to launch their efforts at the Federal Trade Commissions Spam Forum this week.

"With this joint announcement, we are making a timely, bold and critical statement: spam is an industry-wide challenge, requiring industry-wide teamwork, in order to yield industry-wide solutions. By cooperating and collaborating together, we can make real progress against this toxin that pollutes the Internet environment," said Ted Leonsis, vice chairman for AOL in a statement.

Leonsis described spammers as "public enemy No. 1" to AOL and its customers.

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