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New FTC Rule Requires Warning On Sexually Explicit E-Mail

An FTC rule that will take effect next month will mandate that such material includes a warning to inform recipients and ease filtering.

The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday announced the adoption of a rule that requires sexually oriented material to include the warning "sexually explicit" to inform recipients and to facilitate filtering. The rule takes effect May 19 and keeps up with the requirements of the Can-Spam Act. This warning must be included in both the subject line of any E-mail that contains sexually oriented material and in the electronic equivalent of a "brown paper wrapper" in the body of the message.

According to the FTC, the "brown paper wrapper" is what the recipient initially will see when opening a message containing sexually oriented material. It will include the prescribed mark or notice, certain other specified information, and no other information or images. Such information or images may still be present in a message but not initially viewable in a preview pane or upon first opening the E-mail.

Jonathan Kraden of FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection says the rule will allow E-mail recipients to better choose whether to view potentially objectionable content. Despite reports that Can-Spam has been ineffective in reducing the amount of spam, E-mail marketers fear the law will effectively reduce profits.

Three online marketing organizations--the Email Service Provider Coalition (ESPC), Interactive Advertising Bureau, and Truste--came out in opposition to what's expected to be the FTC's next regulatory salvo against spam: the establishment of a Do Not E-mail Registry. The FTC is preparing a report on the subject for Congress, as directed by the law.

Margaret Olson, chief technology officer at Roving Software Inc., an E-marketing ASP, and technology chair for the ESPC, contends that such a registry would be ineffective. "The problem with a Do Not E-mail Registry is that it won't do anything to stop spam and it will impose significant costs on businesses," she says.

Coalition members contend that those on the list would still get spam from criminal spammers--and that such a list would make a tempting target for hackers. Olson says the technology community would be better left on its own to focus on authentication, reputation, and identity solutions.

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