Monkey business

Quick and easy email communications systems were a boon to us all until they got clogged up with junk. A new European law seeks to help rid us of this spam, but there are those who think it’s not tough enough.

Dian Fossey: ‘You like this ring? You want to keep the hand this ring is on? If I see or hear or smell you anywhere near my gorillas, you’ll be writing with your other hand and I’ll have a new ashtray.’ – ‘Gorillas In The Mist.’

I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit fed up using my email system because of the huge number of unsolicited emails that I’m receiving.

First off, there’s Mr. Nobungo Owango from the Congo who keeps writing to me saying that he’d promised his dad that he’d give me ‘The Sum Of No Less Than Fifteen Million US Dollars’ before his dad was killed by gorillas in a coup.

Then, there’s the American lady who is always asking me to purchase drugs that will make a certain part of me more attractive to women.

And let’s not mention the Girl From Ipanema. She writes to tell me that she’s going to be ‘in town’ sometime soon and wants to meet up for a drink. But only after I have visited her web site and taken a look at some images of her in rather, shall we say, provocative poses. (You were right not to mention that – Ed.)

All of this wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s taking me so long to write back to all of these people that I hardly have any time left to answer the really important emails from our readers and contributors.

And I guess it’s the same for most of you too. How much time must we all be wasting in total? It must be thousands, if not millions, of hours per day!

So you can imagine how pleased I was to hear of a new European Directive that makes this practise of ‘spamming’ a criminal offence. Dubbed the ‘Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003’, it comes into force tomorrow – Thursday December 11 – with the aim of making it illegal to send unsolicited e-mails.

After tomorrow then, if a company wants to send you an email, they must first ask your permission before they can send it.

Good stuff, eh? Well, no.

Unfortunately, the new law is not all that it’s cracked up to be. According to Dr. Lindsay Marshall of Newcastle University’s School of Computing Science, the regulations do not cover business e-mail addresses. So they won’t do me a damn bit of good anyway.

Worse still, even if you’re at home, Dr. Marshall thinks that the new law won’t have any effect of the amount of spam you receive.

‘The problem,’ he says, ‘is that almost all spam originates from outside Europe, particularly the USA. ‘But the new law applies only to the European Union. Although the law is the right idea, in principle it will have no noticeable effect. The trouble is that even if the Americans introduced a similar law, the spamming industry there would simply move to another country, so the law alone is not a solution.’

That’s just great.

So what’s a poor boy to do? Clearly, a series of more draconian measures need to be taken to make life more difficult for spammers. One idea might be to exile them all to Africa where they can spend the rest of their days swallowing Viagra in the company of the Girl From Ipanema.

If she ever shows up that is.