Congressmen Urge Action on Anti-Spam Bill

By Scott Hogenson | July 7, 2008 | 8:29pm EDT

( - The flood of annoying e-mail ads for explicit pornography, bulk discounts on Viagra and other unwanted ads could slow to a trickle this summer, according to members of Congress who've drafted anti-spam legislation.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he's hoping for action by the end of June on the RID SPAM Act of 2003.

"We've worked hard to maintain the delicate balance of maintaining a vibrant means of communication and e-commerce while extending consumers the ability to say 'no' to the filth that floods their inbox," said Rep. Richard Burr (R- N.C.), one of the chief patrons of the bill.

The bill proposed by Burr and Sensenbrenner, along with Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), would let consumers opt-out of any e-mail advertisement list and prohibit the sending of unsolicited spam; provide new enforcement tools; more complete identification of e-mail senders; and prohibit the collection of e-mail addresses from web sites or falsify information in the correspondence.

Calls for limitations on unwanted e-mails have increased in recent years along with fears that too much spam would slow down the performance of the Internet and cut into workplace productivity.

"The explosion of spam today threatens to flood the critical arteries of the networks that carry e-mail," said Tauzin.

Specifically targeted in the legislation is sexually explicit e-mail, and Sensenbrenner said those sending such pornography would be "punished severely with criminal penalties."

The costs of spam have been measured in several ways, with one analysis noting that people who spend 10 minutes each day identifying and deleting unwanted e-mail from their inboxes lose more than a week's worth of productivity each year.

That lost productivity, along with equipment to block spam and the diversions that can be caused by receiving and dealing with spam, translates to almost $12 billion in costs, according to a January 2003 study by Ferris Research.

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