A Colorado legislative committee passed a weak anti-spam bill last week. This may not seem like a seminal event in the history of the Internet, but it got some ink after the Rocky Mountain News covered the development in a story that is no longer available online. CNET (CNET) ran skeletal AP copy on the Colorado story. Chris Oakes of Wired News seized the opportunity to examine the fight over spam in state legislatures. And ZDNet filed a goofy look at a California effort to broaden spam protection in that state via a ballot initiative.
The proposed Colorado law would make spammers begin the subject line of each unsolicited commercial e-mail message with the characters "ADV:". Political and nonprofit organizations would fall under the umbrella of potential spammers. The law would require spammers to use well-formed Internet return addresses and to provide victims, er, recipients, with a valid way to "opt out" of future mailings.
Wired News' Oakes found experts - such as Ray Everett-Church, the cofounder of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email, and David Kramer, a lawyer who helped to draft anti-spam legislation for California and Washington state - who were happy to belabor the drawbacks in the Colorado bill. CAUCE's Everett-Church denounced the opt-out feature of the bill, while Kramer characterized Colorado's move as more damaging than doing nothing at all. Kramer concluded, "The ultimate solution would be a federal law banning spam, period ... Why we have not seen legislation yet is beyond me."
ZDNet's Interactive Week profiled an effort in California to gather signatures to put a consumer anti-spam measure on the state's ballot. Currently, California law allows Internet service providers, but not their customers, to sue spammers. Perhaps the Interactive Week piece suffered from deadline pressures, because it got two facts dead wrong. The election for which the signature-gatherers are aiming is almost certainly not November 1999, and the name of the CAUCE spokesman is not Ray Everett Smith. It's enough to make a Coloradan opt out. - Keith Dawson
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