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CNN SUNDAY MORNING
Interview With John Palfrey
Aired December 21, 2003 - 07:39 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN ANCHOR: The war on junk mail is -- junk e-mail is heating up. President Bush signed a new federal law against deceptive spam. Microsoft and New York Attorney General are filing civil suits against spammers. And arrests are being made, indictments returned in Virginia.
John Palfrey heads the Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and now joins us from Boston. Thanks for getting up and coming in this morning. We certainly appreciate it.
Tell us what you can about the law that President Bush signed. Clearly for people who are fed up with getting spam, they may think it's a very noble idea, but how far is this really going to go to keeping us from getting hammered by this stuff?
JOHN PALFREY, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: I think the good news is that things are happening on spam. But the bad news, unfortunately, is there's no complete solution in sight.
The federal law that President Bush signed will have definitely an effect on deterring some very big spammers, but I don't think it's going to take us all the way to a solution.
CALLEBS: And you have some thoughts on how we can really attack it in a better way. If people would just install certain software, that would go a long way toward making everybody's computer time a little more friendly.
PALFREY: I think that's right. I think that much of the solution here is going to come from lots of different people taking a variety of different steps. And individuals can do a fair amount just by installing software, for instance, through their e-mail software or by using anti-virus software that would stop spam.
You could do a variety of other steps like not posting your e- mail address to public Web sites. You can use ISP spam tools that would go a long way as well, use it to report bad instances of spam. You can use challenge and response technology. That's another thing that would stop the worst of the spam coming through, because it makes sure that your correspondents prove they're a person before they send you an e-mail.
If you were to report your severe spam, both to your ISP and to attorneys general, that would help a great deal.
CALLEBS: And picking up on the attorney general, Eliot Spitzer isn't somebody that you really want to tangle with. I mean, he took on Wall Street and came back with a big victory. Now he's going after spammers. Could people at home take some solace from this? Do you think that's going to make a big difference?
PALFREY: I think that will make a fair amount of difference, actually. The notion here is that you need lots of different approaches to this problem. And with Eliot Spitzer and others going after the worst of the spammers, I think that you might get a fair amount of results.
And a number of these recent attorney general based actions were powered by individuals reporting the spam problem.
CALLEBS: And what about the indictments that were returned and the fact that one of the I guess so-called, you know, big thugs in the spam world, some action came down against him recently? Is that going to be good news?
PALFREY: I think that absolutely is. I think that there is a theory that says there are a couple of hundred spam kingpins. And if go after the worst of the offenders, that you will cut down on a lot of the worse spam.
I don't think, again, that that's going to be the end of the solution, since there are a lot of spammers coming from offshore and elsewhere.
CALLEBS: Yes, offshore. Boy, I'd love to go into that. I know that so many of them are there, but unfortunately, Mr. Palfrey, we are out of time. We'd love to have to come back, as we continue to monitor this. And you've also given me the catch phrase for the day. Spam kingpin. I like that.
Thanks very much for joining us. We certainly appreciate it.
PALFREY: Sure. Thanks so much for having me. Thank you.
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