Senate AntiSpam Bill
October 23, 2003 4:05 AM   Subscribe

Senate approves S.887 Can-Spam Bill. Spammers unhappy.FTC to report to Congress with a plan for creating a Do-Not-E-mail registry.
posted by elpapacito (23 comments total)
Am I alone in thinking that, when it comes to the domestic intrusion of advertising, "Do-not-X" lists are bogus, feel-good, half-assed populist measures that fail to address the underlying issues?
posted by wobh at 4:29 AM on October 23, 2003

I'm more in favour of the do-not-call list than the do-not-email list solely because email is not traceable. So what I expect will happen is that spam will not stop but some poor bastards will be vilified because their email address appears in the falsified paper trail or their box was compromised.
posted by substrate at 4:39 AM on October 23, 2003

compromise my box over my dead body.
posted by Pericles at 4:40 AM on October 23, 2003

Oh Please, oh, please, oh, please, oh, please, oh, please come up with something effective (although I'm cynical about the ability to legislate this problem away). Yesterday I had 39 spams that avoided my ISP's spam filter (and about 150 that didn't). Maybe a death penalty for unwanted solicitation?

No, I don't want any of this crap...
posted by jpburns at 4:41 AM on October 23, 2003

Do away with SPAM and we'll end up a nation of small breasted women and under-endowed men. And then the terrorists will have won....not to mention that poor sick kid who won't be getting any Christmas cards. America, what have you become?
posted by ElvisJesus at 5:19 AM on October 23, 2003

Do away with SPAM and we'll end up a nation of small breasted women and under-endowed men.

I already hear the distant crys of a hermaphrodite.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:20 AM on October 23, 2003

A well-intentioned, but futile effort, I think. Doesn't most spam originate from outside U.S. borders? Where's that U.N. mandate??
posted by mkultra at 6:52 AM on October 23, 2003

It's S.877, not 887. Here's the text as passed.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:55 AM on October 23, 2003

I already hear the distant crys of a hermaphrodite.

Don't knock hermaphrodites. They win Pulitzers!
posted by ed at 6:55 AM on October 23, 2003

If SPAM is outlawed then only outlaws wil....

Oh bother, how is this any different from now?
posted by dirtylittlemonkey at 7:13 AM on October 23, 2003

There was an article I read a while back with a concept I support that could end spam overnight: charge for e-mail.

Go with me here: legislate that every copy of an e-mail sent by an individual IP address beyond, say, 100,000 a year, will cost one cent. This doesn't affect the casual usuer, having a grace average of about 250 or so e-mails a day, but it stops cold spammers sending millions of mails daily soley on the basis that it costs them absolutely nothing to do so.

It can be implemented by levying ISPs, who in turn for their own costs will either have to raise rates and risk competition loss or adhere to the charge. Either way, spam is either reduced or contributed to goverment funding.

It's doable, and a forceful "work with us on this or we'll just have to block access to all foreign-bound IPs" can easily take the system global. There are globalized standards for domain names, not to mention in lesser cases money and measurment, so why not IP identification and pricing.

I truly believe no amount of law will stop spammers, because most openly violate existing laws and many others simply don't care. The spam because they have no reason not to. Suddenly having to pay millions of dollars to do it is a hell of a reason no to.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:51 AM on October 23, 2003

I was in Santa Clara on Monday and Tuesday at ISPCON. One of the big topics was how to stop spam. Interestingly:
All of the panelists except [FTC attorney] Huseman, who said the FTC does not take stances on pending legislation, agreed that three anti-spam bills before Congress -- S. 1293 in the Senate, and H.R. 1933 and H.R. 2214 in the House -- would lead to more spam by providing spammers with a legitimate avenue to transmit unsolicited e-mail.
Another hot topic there was the idea of a federal "do not spam" list, which is now part of the Burns-Wyden legislation. The FTC representative, several techies in attendance, and all the legal folks were utterly dismisssive of this idea as a preposterous waste of time and resources; an utterly unenforceable idea which would be impossible to implement and would most likely serve to provide spammers with more resources and more valid email addresses. The bill passed yesterday in the Senate shows Washington's fundamental failure to grasp technology issues.

The best piece of anti-spam legislation, the only anti-spam legislation that has any teeth whatosoever, is California's SB 186, which was to go into effect in January but will be null and void if this (bad) national legislation becomes law. SB 186 makes it illegal for anyone to send spam to or from an email address registered in California, and more importantly, provides for damages from $1,000 upwards. In other words, as the law stands now and assuming the new legislation doesn't make it through the House before the new year, if you get a piece of spam after January 1 and you live in California, and you can track down the spammer or the third-party advertiser, you can take them to small claims court. It's the first law with any teeth that's ever come on the books. It's the first law to specifically make spam illegal.

Several years ago, when I was working at my first job out of college, I wrote a press release for a client who had just won a court case against Cyberpromotions (Sanford Wallace). The attorney was a guy named Pete Wellborn (nickname: "The Spammer Hammer"), who (to my surprise) was one of the panelists at ISPCON.

Pete wasn't rah-rah sis-boom-bah over SB 186. He takes the view that, based on trespass laws, spam is already illegal and he had something really interesting to say, something worth repeating:
"A spam-specific law is a luxury, not necessity," said Wellborn. "The necessity is that we do not have bad legislation. Current spam bills [before the US Congress] are thinly-designed pro spam bills."
This legislation is a very bad idea, in my opinion.
(the blockquotes are from stories I wrote on the show, but I did not want to self-link.)
posted by emptyage at 8:17 AM on October 23, 2003

Yeah, I'm sure Ms. Mariam Abacha is trembling in her boots right now.

"Wait, Mr. Emeka - perhaps we should not send our Urgent Business Proposals out today. We could find ourselves afoul of the US authorities!"
posted by gottabefunky at 8:41 AM on October 23, 2003

Spam is a dirty and usually illegal (using open proxies, fake accounts, stolen acounts, etc) activity as opposed the regulated telemarketing industry.

I'm assuming this will just be a master list of "Please opt-out this address" which usually equals "We got a live one here!"

Client and server side filtering plus raising public awareness on how most of these companies are fraudent probably will be the only way to truly kill spam without re-engineering the entire mail transport system on the internet.

Funny, everyone seems focused on these "Spam kings" but not the companies that commision them to do this dirty work.
posted by skallas at 8:59 AM on October 23, 2003

Skallas: that's the nice thing about the California law... it allows you to take action against "the companies that commision them to do this dirty work"
posted by emptyage at 9:06 AM on October 23, 2003

One unique feature of this bill is that we will all be able to monitor in real-time (via our Inboxes) if it has any effect on the problem. If spammers move overseas, we will be able to track that via spam sources and their web hosting choices every day. Either way, we're already seeing that people and companies are not afraid to do whatever it takes to keep e-mail working, and there is quite a competitive market all working on it even if government fails.
posted by Voivod at 10:10 AM on October 23, 2003

XQUZYPHYR - the likelihood of someone believing that charging for email will solve the spam problem is perfectly correlated with that person's knowledge of how email actually works.

It's worth mentioning this link:
posted by dmd at 11:36 AM on October 23, 2003

What gets me about spam is that presumably the spammer kings wouldn't do it if it didn't work.

So someone somewhere sees that they can enlarge their penis FAST and actually puts down money because of this shitty advertising dumped into our inboxes 27 times a day.

This just reminds me of what democracy so often doesn't work. People are too stupid for it.
posted by Hildegarde at 11:44 AM on October 23, 2003

Er...what = why, of course. I promise never to vote again.
posted by Hildegarde at 11:45 AM on October 23, 2003

No matter how successful you are, how much money you make, how important and respected you are, or how positively you contibute to your community, everyone wants a bigger dick.


Maybe it's time to start focusing on men's self image. This is just sad.
posted by Hildegarde at 1:16 PM on October 23, 2003

Hildegarde -
Not at all the case. You're making the assumption that the people doing the spamming are the people selling the product. How it really works:

1. Nameless person somewhere gets lots of penis-pill spam, just like we all do, and thinks to himself "People wouldn't spam if it didn't work."
3. Person decides to go into business selling penis pills. Note that they don't actually HAVE any; they're planning on buying some once they get an actual order and marking up the price.
3. Person contacts spammer, pays spammer to have their ad spammed. They've probably copied and pasted this ad from some spam that THEY received.
4. Spammer gets paid.
5. Some other person starts from step 1.

The only people getting paid are the spammers.
posted by dmd at 2:13 PM on October 23, 2003

>The only people getting paid are the spammers.

Truly, my favorite spam is the the guys trying to sell me their 15 million email addresses. Spam: redefining viral marketing.
posted by skallas at 3:08 PM on October 23, 2003

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