Lawmakers Unveil Long-Awaited Anti-Spam Bill

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  1. Smokey

    Smokey Registered Member

    Apr 1, 2002
    Annie's Pub
    "Lawmakers Unveil Long-Awaited Anti-Spam Bill"

    U.S. lawmakers introduced a long-awaited anti-spam bill on Friday that is likely to move quickly through Congress, despite criticism from consumer groups who say it will do little to stop the plague of junk e-mail.

    The bill, sponsored by North Carolina Rep. Richard Burr, is the result of months of negotiations by powerful Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives who hope to beat back spam while still allowing businesses to market their products over the Internet.

    The Reduction in Distribution of Spam Act, as it is known, establishes tough penalties for e-mail marketers who lie about their identities or engage in other deceptive tactics, but otherwise does not prevent businesses from contacting anybody with an e-mail address.

    Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin have signed on as co-sponsors, making it likely that the bill will encounter few hurdles on its way to a full vote.

    Sensenbrenner said he hoped the House would pass the bill by the end of June.

    The RID Spam Act has also drawn backing from technology titans like Microsoft Corp. and trade groups like the Direct Marketing Association. But anti-spam groups said it would do little to fight the problem as marketers could still send out as many messages as they wished.

    "We find it incomprehensible that, in the face of such strong consumer outcry to stop spam, the response from Congress is legislation that protects marketers and deprives customers of their right to be left alone," said the Coalition Against Unsolicited Email, a grass-roots group of 40,000 Internet users.


    Unsolicited commercial e-mail is now widely viewed as a serious threat to the Internet as a whole, flooding users' in-boxes and costing businesses billions of dollars in wasted bandwidth. Internet providers and filtering companies say spam now makes up between 40 percent and 80 percent of all e-mail.

    The Federal Trade Commission estimates that two out of three of these messages contain misleading information of some sort, such as false return addresses, misleading subject lines, or pitches for miracle cures and other questionable products.

    Burr's bill seeks to cut down on deceptive spam by requiring e-mail marketers to disclose their online and physical addresses and honor customer requests to be taken off their mailing lists. Pornographic e-mail would be labeled as such, and marketers would not be allowed to "harvest" e-mail addresses from sources that say they will not resell customer information.

    Those who violate these guidelines could face fines of up to $1.5 million and jail time of up to two years. Internet providers, state attorneys general and federal-law enforcement agencies such as the FTC and the Justice Department could go after suspected spammers, but the bill does not allow individual lawsuits or class-action suits.

    The bill would also override existing state laws, except those that prohibited misleading information, and carves out an exemption for "legitimate" commercial messages, such as airline ticket confirmations and bank notices.

    Absent from the list of co-sponsors was New Mexico Republican Rep. Heather Wilson, whose earlier anti-spam bill was sidelined after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

    A Wilson aide said the bill contained too many loopholes and set the bar too high for the FTC and other enforcers.

    The Senate is expected to act soon on a similar bill introduced by Montana Republican Conrad Burns and Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden.

    Source: Reuters, Washington
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