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Magazines > Information Today > May 2004
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Information Today

Vol. 21 No. 5 — May 2004

OPINION
Green Eggs and Spam
By Dick Kaser

It took only a few months to start feeling the effects—some desired and some unanticipated—of the Can Spam Act.

You'll recall that the new law, which went into effect Jan. 1, sought to reduce the amount of true junk mail that most of us receive daily in our e-mail boxes by making it officially illegal for bulk e-mailers to do certain things, such as camouflage their identity.

I suggested in a previous editorial that based on the amount of spam I was still receiving, the law definitely needs to be enforced.

The first suit came down the pike near the ides of March, when AOL, EarthLink, Yahoo!, and Microsoft each filed a different action in a different federal court. The suits are against various spammers, not just those selling placebo medical patches, but also those who pander in home mortgage and insurance promotions. The online service providers also named a few hundred John Doe entities, whom they now hope to identify after having been given the power to subpoena records as part of the legal discovery process.

Right on, I say. These are the types of spammers the Can Spam Act was designed to go after.

But isn't it a little ironic that for such a serious problem, it's the private sector that's lodging the complaints? I was expecting the action to come out of some attorney general's office.

When it comes to spending public money to protect Internet users, the Justice Department seems more focused on wiping out Internet gambling than it does on fighting spam.

In April, Google and Yahoo! both announced that they would no longer take ads from offshore casinos. Though no suits were filed, there's been much discussion in the press about the Justice Department considering anyone who accepts advertising from these firms to be aiding and abetting them—a federal crime equal to the crime itself under existing federal statutes. And there's speculation that the search engines took the hint.

So let me get this straight: We're going to spend public money on eliminating Internet gambling—at least from offshore firms—while we let the private sector pay the bill to identify and go after the criminals who are ruining the Internet's killer app?

Hey, I have an idea. How about if we let the Internet service providers take the ad money from the offshore gambling enterprises and put it in a fund to fight spam? Yeah, it'll be sort of like a state lottery fund to pay for public education or the care of the elderly. I'd vote for it.


Dick Kaser is Information Today, Inc.'s vice president of content. His e-mail address is kaser@infotoday.com.
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