Spammers continue to ignore Can-Spam law

The Federal Trade Commission is still drawing up rules for compliance with the federal anti-spam law, but a study by one e-mail security provider found most spammers are ignoring the law.

Less than 3 percent of 40,000 spam messages examined by MX Logic Inc. of Denver contained the postal address and opt-out functions required by the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003.

'Spammers should and could be further along in complying with Can-Spam, if they all truly wanted to be,' said Scott Chassin, chief technology officer for MX Logic. 'That is why legislation needs to be complemented by the other three components of a comprehensive spam protection solution: anti-spam technology, end-user education and industry cooperation in the e-mail industry.'

Spammers soon will have to meet a new requirement to pass federal muster. FTC has proposed a labeling rule required under Can-Spam for all e-mail containing sexually oriented material. All such spam would have to contain the phrase 'Sexually-Explicit Content:' followed by a space in the first 27 spaces of the subject line.

The commission is seeking comment on the proposed rule until Feb. 17. The final rule will take effect in April.

The commissioners added the hyphen in the phrase and the colon following it to facilitate e-mail filtering. 'The commission is concerned that a filter set to block a simple English phrase like 'sexually explicit content' could prevent delivery of an e-mail from an anti-pornography group that used the phrase,' for instance.

The phrase would also have to be included on the digital equivalent of a brown paper wrapper when the e-mail is opened. This opening page would also include the opt-out function for people who did not want to receive such messages, and a valid postal address.

The elements already are required under Can-Spam, which took effect Jan. 1, overriding existing state laws.

It was the opt-out function and postal address that MX Logic looked for in its survey. The company, which filters e-mail for about 900 corporate customers, examined a random batch of 10,000 e-mail messages filtered as spam each week for four weeks, ending Feb. 6.

'Three percent is a negligible increase in compliance compared to the less than 1 percent compliance rate we found during the first week in January,' Chassin said.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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