Lycos declares ‘make love not spam’ – or else

Lycos users are being invited to strike back at the spammers. Visitors to the company’s European sites are being invited to join the ‘make love not spam’ campaign. By downloading a screensaver users can gang up and mount a denial of service attack on spammers’ servers.

The idea is that if Lycos can persuade a sizable proportion of its 20 million or so Windows and Mac OS visitors to user the screensavers, they can clog up the spammers’ bandwidth. The target sites have been selected via Spamcop and other spam monitoring sites.

The ‘make love not spam’ site even helpfully tells you which sites are being hit and how much bandwidth they have left.

Despite the temptation to applaud, there is considerable doubt as to the legality of the move. Many European countries have now passed laws banning denial of service attacks. For example, in Germany, where Lycos is piloting the scheme, the move may constitute a manipulation of data under Section 303a and computer sabotage under Section 303b of the German Penal Code as well as other regulations governing willful damage. Apparently, Lycos reckons that it can get round the law merely by ‘slowing down’ the spammers’ servers and not bringing them down.

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