by Grant Gross

Washington Watch: Antispam Bill Won’t End Junk E-Mail

Dec 15, 20032 mins

An antispam bill that was poised to become law at press time may do little to stem the barrage of junk e-mail, according to CIOs.

The legislation, called the Can-Spam (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) Act, would require senders of unsolicited commercial e-mail to let recipients opt out of future mailings, set penalties for sending deceptive messages and create a national Do Not Spam list. The measure requires all e-mail advertising?not just unsolicited messages?to include a valid reply-to address, a valid postal address and accurate headers and subject lines.

But CIOs say it won’t work, since so much spam comes from outside the United States. Tod Ferran, CIO of Riverton Motor Co., an auto dealership based in Sandy, Utah, says you’d need “the authority of a world government” to enforce such a law. Instead, he favors a technological solution (the open-source Mozilla e-mail system he uses includes a junk mail filtering feature) as well as “education of the public” to not respond to spam solicitations.

Matt Kesner, CTO of the Fenwick & West law firm based in Mountain View, Calif., thinks legislating against spam is worth a try, but he questions why the Senate would pass a bill that would trump a strong new California antispam law requiring marketers to get permission from or have an existing business relationship with a recipient before sending mail. Without better technological and legal solutions he’s afraid “we’ll get to the point where we accept e-mail only from people we know.”