Recently I received e-mail telling me that “You too can see benefits of Viagra; there’s no reason to suffer with the stress, humiliation and disappointment brought on by erectile-dysfunction.” My mom always told me never to buy from people who write run-on sentences.
Everyone with an e-mail address has received spam. If you have ever been told you can lose weight in 10 days or get no-interest mortgages or win a vacation in a country you have never heard of, then you’ve gotten spammed.
But what is spam? It makes up 60 percent of e-mail traffic. It is unsolicited and sent out in bulk. And it is perfectly legal thanks to the CAN-SPAM Act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act).
The law creates a stricter definition of spam as opposing to outlawing it altogether and leaves the Federal Trade Commission responsible for enforcement. CAN-SPAM makes it illegal for e-mailers to use false identities or misleading subject lines; they now are forced to include their snail mail and e-mail addresses, hypothetically providing an efficient way for recipients to contact them to unsubscribe from mailings.
Harvesting, or the practice of gathering e-mails from chat rooms, is also prohibited. Violators of the law would have to pay damages to the recipients and some instances be fined up to $2 million or face up to five years in jail.
But how effective will CAN-SPAM be? Before the law was passed, 35 states already had anti-spam laws allowing individuals to sue the people who spammed them. But CAN-SPAM preempts state laws, making an unlawful and irritating practice into a lawful and irritating practice.
It would be more effective to follow in the lead of state laws and ban spam altogether, as opposed to regulating it with rules that some companies will continue to violate anyway. One example: How many Americans do you think would send every piece of spam they got that is banned by the new law to firstname.lastname@example.org, the FTC’s address for reporting spam violators?
The law also orders the FTC to come up with a national “Do Not Spam” list within six months even though FTC Chairman Tim Muris does not think the plan will a work. If ever put into practice, the list would contain e-mail addresses for countless number of Internet users, causing enforcement to be hectic at the very least.
Meanwhile, America Online, the nation’s leading Internet provider, has noticed many spammers moving their companies overseas to avoid prosecution in the United States. AOL claims to block 2.4 billion pieces of spam per day while Verizon and EarthLink note that spam accounts for 55 percent of all the traffic coming into their networks.
Most internet providers offer ways for e-mail recipients to block incoming spam through direct spam blockers or bulk / junk mail folders. Even the redesign of TUMail offers a junk mail folder.
But just last week I received e-mail telling me that I could earn my Bachelors, Masters, Ph.D., or MBA with tests or classes. I think I’ll pass on that one, but I’ll forward the information to Mr. “Erectile-Dysfunction.” He may be in need of some quick schooling.
Stephanie Young can be reached at email@example.com.