FTC's working for a spam clampdown

Can the Federal Trade Commission stop the flow of unsolicited e-mail? The agency is getting ready to launch a crackdown on people who send spam.

The Federal Trade Commission is training its legal guns on spam.

On Tuesday, the agency plans to unveil an aggressive three-point program to crack down on unwanted commercial e-mail.

The agency receives about 10,000 e-mails a day in a database it set up for consumers to forward their unsolicited mail. Since the database was launched in 1998, it has amassed 8 million pieces of purported spam, according to an FTC spokeswoman.

The spokeswoman would not comment on the specifics of the plan, but she did say it would involve "taking legal action" against those sending spam.

FTC attorneys also have investigated the problem, replicating a scenario nearly every e-mail user has experienced. In one case, an FTC attorney set up six new e-mail accounts and within days had received dozens of unwanted e-mails.

Crackdowns on spam have been largely unsuccessful, partly because they pit concerns about privacy against free-speech issues. In addition, although many states have adopted anti-spam measures, spammers have argued that there is usually no way for them to know an e-mail recipient lives in a certain state where some types of junk e-mail are illegal.

Some anti-spam advocates have urged angry junk e-mail recipients to turn to small-claims court. Last year, Ellen Spertus of California won a $50 judgment against Kozmo.com; the now-defunct online delivery service sent her spam even though she had asked to be removed from its contact list.


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