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State bill seeks to ban spam

A state assembly member plans to introduce a bill that would ban companies from sending unsolicited commercial email to Californians.

After a year of trying various technological solutions to block out spam, legislators around the country once again will be pushing in 1998 for laws to curtail junk email, which many consider the scourge of the Net.

In California, for instance, Assemblyman Gary G. Miller (R-Diamond Bar), will introduce a bill that seeks to ban companies from sending unsolicited commercial email to any Californian.

Miller based the bill on the Netizens Protection Act, a national bill introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey). Ideally, he would prefer a national solution, said John Cusey, Miller's legislative aid.

But until then, Miller is hoping to press the issue by introducing a bill in his own state.

"If we can pass a bill, we at least have a solution for California," Cusey said. "California is the leader in technology and things like this will travel eastward if it is passed here."

Plus, he added, because there are so many people in California, it will be impossible for spammers to weed out all the Golden State residents from their mailing lists.

Miller introduced the bill after being contacted by a constituent whose business computer crashed for a few days after a spammer used that constituent's name as a return address on a piece of junk email, Cusey said. Miller plans to introduce the bill, which also would prevent companies from sending anonymous email (even if solicited), on January 5, when the Assembly is back in session, Cusey said.

Those in the Internet community fighting spam have increasingly said a legislative remedy is needed. Although Internet service providers and software companies have come out with technical solutions, even the best ones are far from perfect.

Many have said that legislation is the only viable solution.

Which bill will ultimately succeed, however, has yet to be determined. Some bills call for junk email to be treated similarly to junk faxes; others specifically prohibit certain kinds of spam, such as those advertising pornography.