US anti-spam law not working, survey finds

9 Jan 2004

The latest attempt by the US Government to control the onset of spam with stringent legislation appears to be failing, a new survey has suggested. The findings of MX Logic, a provider of email protection and security systems, showed that more than 99pc of a recent sample of unsolicited commercial email failed to comply with the new federal anti-spam law that came into effect on 1 January this year.

A random sample of more than 1,000 unsolicited commercial emails were checked over a seven-day period from New Year’s Day and it found just three of these message complied with the law, the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM).

The CAN-SPAM Act creates administrative, civil and criminal tools to help US businesses and consumers combat spam. The law allows for certain forms of unsolicited commercial email as long as it is clearly marked as an advertisement and allows consumers to unsubscribe from future unsolicited commercial email from the sender. It outlaws the use of false email headers or the use of a mail server or open relay to deceive recipients about the origin of a commercial email message.

Under the terms of the act, organisations are banned from registering five or more email accounts or two or more domain names with false information and using of them to send commercial email. It prohibits sending commercial email containing sexually oriented material unless it is so labelled. The law enforces statutory damages of US$2m for violations, tripled to US$6m for intentional violations, as well as unlimited damages for fraud and abuse.

Commenting on the survey, MX Logic’s chief technology officer Scott Chasin said: “Calling this a high rate of non-compliance would be a gross understatement. It is no surprise that rogue spammers would fail to comply, but the non-compliant messages we saw appeared to be from all types of companies.

“There appears to be an unstated, unofficial grace period for companies to comply, but if this high level of illegal spam continues, I think it will be interesting to see how enforcement of the new legislation will unfold,” Chasin ventured. He pointed out that companies have had little time to digest the new law, signed by President Bush on 16 December last year, let alone bring their commercial email into line with the legislation.

By Gordon Smith