Congress considers “anti-spam” legislation to limit bulk e-mail
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Three U.S. congressmen in early summer introduced bills that would impose limitations on electronic “spam,” or unsolicited and commercial e-mail messages.
All three bills would require that senders of electronic mail messages include the names and actual return e-mail addresses of the sender. Currently, “spammers” may send mail through domains that don’t allow the recipient to reply.
Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Ark.) introduced a bill in late May that would require those who send commercial e-mail messages to include the word “advertisement” at the beginning of each message as well as the name, physical address, e-mail address and telephone number of the sender.
The “Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail Choice Act of 1997” defines commercial electronic mail as any electronic message that “contains and advertisement for the sale of a product or service” or that provides a telephone number or other Internet reference that would advertise or sell a product.
Murkowski’s proposal would also require senders to comply with recipients’ requests to discontinue sending any future messages and would authorize states to bring civil suits on behalf of their residents against those who violate the act.
A House bill, also introduced in late May, would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to ban the transmission of unsolicited advertisements via e-mail and would require that sender identification be included in all commercial e-mail messages.
The “Netizens Protection Act of 1997,” introduced by Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) would make it illegal to send electronic messages to “an individual with who such person lacks a preexisting and ongoing business or personal relationship, unless such individual provides express invitation or permission.”
If “express invitation or permission” is given, the bill requires that messages includes the identity of the sender and the return e- mail address.
The third bill, introduced by Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) in mid-June, would create fines of $5,000 for, among other violations, sending unsolicited e-mail messages from “an unregistered or fictitious” address “to prevent replies through use of a standard reply mechanism.”
The “Electronic Mailbox Protection Act of 1997” would also prohibit setting up an Internet “domain” for the purpose of sending unsolicited e-mail messages.
The two Senate bills were referred to the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and the House bill was referred to the Commerce Committee. (S. 771; H.R. 1748; S. 875)