How helpful will the new proposed Spam laws be in fighting the problem?
This question was answered on April 9, 2003. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
Technology has always been one of the more difficult things to legislate, because of its far reaching effects and the lack of understanding of many that attempt to regulate it.
Most of today’s laws attempt to stem the flow by targeting specific actions that can be defined in a statute, such as false return addresses or misleading subject lines.
For instance, the state of Washington filed suit against two Minnesota residents last year for deceptive advertising because the subject lines contained verbiage such as ‘Payment Past Due, Check Unclaimed or URGENT -- Account Update.’ Of course, the messages had nothing to due with any real account, but rather was a pitch for debt consolidation services.
This is the third suit filed by the state of Washington, which is so far the only state to actually go after Spammers, even though many other states have laws on the books.
Most of the current cases (over 500) have been filed by individuals or companies that may not have the man-power or funds to make as big of an example as a state, so most are watching the Washington cases with particular interest.
As with all laws, it isn’t what is on the books, but how it is enforced and that is where Spam laws will run into some trouble Laws are for law-abiding citizens and the Internet is full of un-abiding ‘netizens’ from around the world.
Some of the most crude, rude and offensive messages come from pornographers that operate from various locations throughout the world that are impossible to regulate.
Gambling web sites, which tend to send lots of Spam, generally all operated in countries outside of the U.S because of existing laws concerning gambling, so they are likely to ignore anything that is created.
Most of the proposed and existing laws (if enforced) could create a major dent in the problem, because at least U.S based companies would be forced to comply, but to believe that it will make Spam go away is a fantasy.
One of the reasons that Spam has become so widespread is because it is very inexpensive to send and it actually gets people to respond, even if it is in small numbers Responding to Spam in any way, even if you are asking to be removed from the list or especially if you buy the product or service being pitched, will only encourage the sender to continue.
Remember, they did not follow the rules when they sent you the original message, so the likelihood of them complying with your request to be removed is not good In fact, you will likely be verifying your address to them so they can sell it to others.
I have posted tips on how to ‘manage’ the problem at <a href="www.computerproblems.com"> www.computerproblems.com</a> (Search the site using the word ‘Spam’ to find them.)
Keep in mind that no matter what methods are developed for filtering, legislating or blocking Spam, someone will figure out a way around it, so do your part and don’t ever respond!
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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on April 9, 2003