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Keeping Spam In The Can

Senate passes anti-spam legislation, but the bill's enforcement is questionable
The U.S. Senate voiced its condemnation of unsolicited commercial E-mail with a 97-0 vote last week to approve the Can-Spam Act of 2003. The bill bans false or misleading transmissions such as forged

E-mail message headers and prohibits predatory or abusive commercial E-mail. It also makes it illegal for third parties to promote products and services through such E-mail, thereby making it more difficult for vendors to distance themselves from shady affiliates that send spam in their names.

John Breyault, research associate at the Telecommunications Research and Action Center, an advocacy group that represents telecom-customer interests, applauds the fact that the legislation criminalizes pornographic and scam spam. Still, he'd like to see more resources directed to the Federal Trade Commission for enforcement of the provisions laid out in the bill. "One of the biggest problems with spam is that it's eroding people's trust in E-mail and the Internet," Breyault says. "With strong enforcement provisions, that will build the trust back up."

Similar legislation is under consideration in the House of Representatives; differences between the House and Senate bills have yet to be worked out.