House passes anti-spam bill

The bill would make it illegal to send commercial e-mail to people who've asked not to receive it

By a 427-1 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday passed an antispam

bill that would prohibit commercial e-mail messages from being sent to people

who have asked to be removed from the sender's distribution list.

The measure would also prevent companies from sending out messages with

inaccurate return addresses that make it impossible for recipients to unsubscribe

from mailing lists. The bill's chief sponsor, Rep. Heather Wilson, a Republican

from New Mexico, said passage of the act was the culmination of more than

a year of coalition building after spam bills with similar intent became

bogged down in Congress two years ago.

"We are one big step closer to providing consumers with the ability

to free themselves from the annoying and sometimes offensive flood of junk

e-mail clogging their computers," Wilson said in a statement.

"We think it could be a pretty significant piece of legislation," said

John Mozena, co-founder of the advocacy group Coalition Against Unsolicited

Commercial E-Mail (CAUCE). The group has closely followed the spam issue

in Congress and provided tips for the public at its World Wide Web site.

Mozena said unsolicited commercial e-mail, better known as spam, chews

up bandwidth and disk space, requires filtering technology on the part of

Internet service providers and wastes the time of recipients. CAUCE estimates

that at least one in every 10 email messages is spam.

The U.S. Senate is also considering antispam legislation sponsored by

Sen. Conrad Burns, a Republican from Montana, although Mozena said that

measure has less stringent regulations than this one. For example, he said,

the Senate version doesn't give spam recipients the right to sue companies

that send the messages.

Wilson said part of her interest in sponsoring the House bill was the

amount of pornography-related messages that are sent to unsuspecting recipients.

But she said she was also driven by complaints from ISPs that junk e-mail

harms them by tying up and sometimes crashing their servers.

— Margaret Johnston of the IDG News Service contributed to this article.

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