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Tough To Prove Can-Spam's Impact, FTC Admits

It's nearly the second anniversary of the federal Can-Spam Act, and the Federal Trade Commission acknowledges that it can't prove the legislation has had any effect on junk mail volume.
Even by the FTC's admission, the law has failed to stop spam. "We're not here saying that the spam problem is solved," said the FTC's Panes. "We're saying that we're making progress. Neither the FTC nor Congress thought CAN-SPAM would be the sole solution to the problem."

As proof of CAN-SPAM's effectiveness as a law enforcement tool, Panes announced eight new lawsuits filed by the FTC, its Canadian counterpart, and the Attorney Generals from Florida, Texas, and North Carolina.

The eight lawsuits, collectively dubbed "Operation Button Push," accuse 10 people of breaking various provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act, or Canada's Competition Act. Some of the spammers have had their assets frozen and their spamming stopped. Others of the eight lawsuits have only just been filed.

The FTC, said Panes, has filed 21 lawsuits against spammers using the CAN-SPAM Act, and in the same two-year period, has worked with partners such as states or foreign governments on 50 other cases involving over 750 defendants.

Bottom-line, said Panes, is that Americans are receiving less spam now than they were in 2003.

But are they?

"It's true that we've seen some drops in the volume of spam," said MX Logic's Chasin. "In 2005, 68 percent of all e-mail we surveyed was spam. That's down from 77 percent in 2004. But we need more data to be sure. Spam has its spikes, its ups and downs."

The FTC report to Congress can be downloaded in PDF format from the agency's Web site.