Spam canners can't agree on recipe

Federal Trade Commission head Orson Swindle today said the tidal wave of unsolicited e-mail messages 'is on the verge of killing the only killer app we have in broadband''e-mail.

Spam costs businesses an estimated $8 billion to $10 billion annually to run double the normal number of servers to store it and pay extra staff workers to deal with it, speakers said at a Capitol Hill conference sponsored by the Cato Institute.

Half of all e-mail is now spam, said Dave Baker, a vice president of EarthLink Inc. of Atlanta, the nation's third-largest Internet provider. He advocated leaving the antispam campaign to litigators like himself, saying that EarthLink has sued more than 100 large-scale spammers and obtained multimillion-dollar judgments.

'At the FTC, 66 percent of all the spam we look at''110,000 messages per day forwarded by recipients to uce@ftc.gov''is fraudulent or deceptive, and mostly untraceable' because it comes from offshore, Swindle said.

He estimated there are 180 million e-mail users in the United States alone and cautioned members of Congress who are writing antispam bills to 'be careful. You might do more harm than good.'

FTC supports only narrowly focused legislation, he said, to help enforcers 'get to the bad guys' by outlawing the falsification of sender and subject lines. He also advocated forcing Internet providers to give customers enough power over their inboxes to do 'ruthless blocking' of unwanted messages, whether they are commercial or not.

The commission also wants Congress to grant it rule-making authority to interpret whatever legislation does get passed, Swindle said.

And legislation is coming, Baker predicted: 'It's certain this year or next.'

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