Anti-spam bill passes US subcommittee

ITworld.com |  Business

A US congressional subcommittee Wednesday approved legislation that would prohibit
sending unsolicited e-mail unless it is marked as an unsolicited commercial advertisement.

As well, senders of such "spam" must provide a way for consumers to
opt out of future e-mail solicitations.

The Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee approved the legislative proposal
by a unanimous voice vote. The bill now will move on to the full Energy and
Commerce Committee. This is the continuation of a battle that started in 1998.
Legislation each year since then has been drafted to try and stop the practice
often called "spamming".

Critics charge that spam e-mail clogs networks and is a nuisance for many users.
The goal of the legislation is to prohibit the advertisement for pornographic
Web sites, get-rich-quick schemes and the numerous other types of spam e-mail
that flood into e-mail systems each day, said in a statement U.S. Representative
Gene Green, a Democrat from Texas who helped introduce the bill. The information
contained in spam e-mail is never requested and thus should not be delivered,
he said.

The bill known as The Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail Act of 2001 gives
users the right to remove their names from spam lists. Companies that send spam
would be required to provide a valid return e-mail address where users could
write to be removed from the spam list, the bill states. Companies that fail
to comply would be subject to investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission
(FTC) and lawsuits from ISPs (Internet service providers) for $500 per spam
message, up to a maximum liability of $50,000, according to the proposed legislation.

Consumers should have the power to stop receiving junk e-mail, said U.S. Representative
Heather Wilson, a Republican from New Mexico who introduced the bill with Green,
in a statement. The bill gives parents and consumers the power to say "enough
is enough" and close their e-mail inbox to annoying and obscene junk e-mail,
she said.

There is some concern from direct marketing companies about the bill. The Direct
Marketing Association Inc. in New York supports the basic principles of the
bill that spam senders can not lie about who they are and that consumers can
opt out of receiving the junk emails, said Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president
of government affairs for the association. However, the association disagrees
with a clause in the bill that would make the FTC or any other government agency
the enforcer of private spam or e-mail policies.

Similar anti-spam legislation introduced by Green and Wilson was approved by
the full House in 2000, but failed to get through the Senate, said Kevin McDermott,
a spokesman for Wilson.

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