Schumer again calls for anti-spam list

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) renewed calls for a federal "Do Not Spam" registry modeled after the Federal Trade Commission's "Do Not Call" list, after a new national survey showed that 75 percent of consumers supported such an initiative.

"The support for a federal no-spam list is strong enough that I don't think the public is going to be sympathetic to claims that it is hard to do," said Schumer. "Americans want a solution to the spam plague that has teeth. They don't want a half-way measure that fails to do something."

He introduced a bill this summer calling for such a registry, but now he will probably attach an amendment to an anti-spam bill sponsored by Sens. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that will likely be brought to the Senate floor in the next few weeks. It is expected to pass, according to a Schumer aide.

Market research firm InsightExpress LLC and consulting firm Unspam LLC today released an online survey showing a continuing upward trend for spam — generally defined as unsolicited commercial bulk e-mail — over the last year.

That's not surprising, but Lee Smith, president of InsightExpress, said this survey showed the impact of graphic images and content, such as pornography or ads touting Viagra, on people at home and the workplace. "The volume is growing, the graphic nature is growing and the work to sort through the spam is growing," he said.

For example, the survey indicated that:

* Americans consider more than 50 percent of their messages as spam, of which 25 percent is considered pornographic.

* 75 percent of Americans say spam is making it a burden to check their e-mail — nearly two in five spend at least five minutes a day weeding through spam.

* 37 percent of workers with e-mail admit to being distracted by spam and 45 percent indicate they would be more productive if they received less spam.

* 84 percent say effective laws are needed, while 72 percent favor the strictest possible legislation even on the state level.

* 90 percent of parents are seriously concerned about their children receiving inappropriate e-mail.

There's not going to be one silver bullet that can solve spam, Smith said, adding that it's going to take a combination of technology and legislation to combat the problem.

A "Do Not Spam" registry is doable, but tough to enforce spammers who operate outside the United States, Smith said. He said that half the MediaPost Communications, a group of 36,000 traditional and online advertising members, surveyed this summer support such a registry, although many of them fear being tagged as spammers.

Several states have already passed anti-spam laws, including California and Virginia. Virginia also was one of the first to tie criminal penalties, including a $10,000 fine and up to two years in jail for sending something such as 10,000 unsolicited e-mails in a day, Smith said.

Legitimate companies need to build relationships with their customers if they're going to use e-mail as an effective marketing tool, said Doug Adams, marketing director for InsightExpress. If those companies don't abuse it, they "are going to succeed and use the medium to their advantage," he said.

More than 5,000 telemarketers have bought all or at least segments of the FTC's "Do Not Call" registry, which has more than 50 million phone numbers. However, being on the list doesn't mean it will end all calls for consumers — charities, political organizations and organizations conducting surveys are exempted. And companies can call people with whom they have, or have recently had, a business relationship.

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