Thursday, December 18, 2008

Congress and Spam

Network World reports on the successes of the  2003 CAN-SPAM act:
"Lawyers were having to work overtime to stretch existing laws to cover what was going on with spam. Issues like falsified headers were not clear-cut legal offenses," Church explains. "A lot of folks were saying: 'What can we do to give some teeth to legal efforts to try to stop spam?' There were a number of different proposals over many years, and the one that carried the day was the CAN-SPAM Act."

CAN-SPAM allows the Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department and state agencies to prosecute spammers, and it allows ISPs to sue those who violate the law.

The FTC has brought around 30 law enforcement actions under the CAN-SPAM Act, according to a staff report issued in November 2007. Meanwhile, AOL, Yahoo, EarthLink and Microsoft have sued hundreds of alleged spammers under CAN-SPAM. 

"One of the other good things about CAN-SPAM is that it provided the ability for end users and ISPs who are victims of spam to seek justice on their own behalf, and a number of them have taken advantage of that fact," says Dmitri Alperovitch, director of intelligence analysis at Secure Computing. [emph. added]

So, what good has all this prosecuting and suing accomplished?  Not much.  As Network World points out, back when Congress heroically passed CAN-SPAM, spam made up only 45% of e-mail.  Now, five years later, it constitutes an amazing 97% of all e-mail.  But fret not because the upside is that the lawyers doing all the prosecuting, suing, and defending are profiting.

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