Green Eggs and Spam
By Dick Kaser
It took only a few months to start feeling the effectssome desired and
some unanticipatedof 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 thema 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 gamblingat least from offshore firmswhile 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 email@example.com.