House Commerce subcommittee today approved by voice vote the Consumer Antislamming Act, containing controversial provisions aimed at protecting Net users from junk email that antispammers say actually legitimize spam.
The bulk of the proposed law addresses "slamming," the reviled practice of switching a customer's telephone service provider without authorization. But it also would make it illegal for junk emailers to hide their identities and would impose a fine of up to $15,000 for using fake return email addresses.
Antispammers claim the bill stands to make it easier for spammers to send mass unsolicited email by outlining circumstances in which it could be sent legitimately--namely, if the sender is
properly identified and the email is labeled as spam.
Many Net users have long complained that spam clogs their email in-boxes and Internet service providers say it costs them millions of dollars in time and resources, such as needing extra
servers to deal with the huge influx of email.
In other words, antispammers and ISPs claim sending spam is akin to stealing resources, since spammers don't pay for postage the way real-world junk mailers do. But spammers have said they are willing to pay something for the right to send their bulk email and have contended that email is a legitimate way to advertise.
Today's move brings the act a step closer to becoming law. While the spamming provision of the law has been controversial from the beginning, the gist of the act, dealing with "slamming," faces less opposition.
It also would protect ISPs from being forced to deliver spam messages. That section of the amendment
would ensure ISPs' right to filter their mail to weed out junk email.
Although White withdrew the amendment, members will consider
provisions in it and change the legislation accordingly before
it goes to full committee, said Peter Schalestock, a spokesman for White.
Antispammers are strongly opposed to the bill as it reads now.