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SUNDAY, JUNE 5, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Time for FTC to change CAN-SPAM to CANíT

With great fanfare, Congress passed a law in 2003 authorizing the Federal Trade Commission to impose severe penalties on e-mail spammers.

Looked at your Inbox recently?

The law never had the appearance of a cure-all, but it seemed safe to assume it would reduce the flurry of spam that clogs our hard drives and Internet connections.

The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act, or CAN-SPAM Act, banned false and misleading advertisements. It authorizes spam recipients to opt out of spam senders. The spam sender then has 10 days to take the recipient off the list.

The penalty is what gave spam haters hope. Every violation triggers a fine of $11,000. Consider the volume of the annoying e-mails, that fine could multiply quickly.

On top of fines, the law also authorized prison sentences for some violations.

The senders also have the burden of proving their spams comply with the law.

So far, so good. But two years later, the FTC still has no enforceable rules on many aspects of the law.

The only good news from the FTC came last month when the agency successfully shut down a spammer who sent millions of e-mails from a "lonely wife" who wanted a relationship.

According to the FTC, even that inane spam bilked recipients of $700,000.

The Internet is no longer just a fad for teenagers and geeks. It is quickly becoming the world's most important method of communication. Spam does to legitimate Internet communications what a traffic jam does to a car. You may get there, but only after lots of swearing.

The FTC needs to get on with it. Its shorthand for the law, CAN-SPAM, is beginning to appear prophetic.

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