Senate passes measure to address ‘the scourge of the Internet’

Thursday, May 14, 1998

The Senate passed an amendment to a telephone consumer protection bill this week that the sponsor says “will significantly reduce the problem of junk e-mail.”

The provision requires online marketers to identify themselves and to stop sending messages to consumers who request that they desist.

Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), along with Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.), first introduced legislation to control junk e-mail—also known as spam—with the Unsolicited Electronic Mail Choice Act (S. 771) in May 1997.

Though Murkowski has referred to junk e-mail as “the scourge of the Internet,” his proposal does not ban it.

“More than 1,500 people commented on my bill last year, and most opposed any sweeping bans on free speech and commerce on the Internet,” he said. “This bill takes a small, but important step to help Americans be simply left alone by junk e-mailers.”

However, the leading anti-spam group—the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail (CAUCE)—believes the step the measure takes not only is too small, but is in the wrong direction.

CAUCE Chairman Scott Hazen said: “This is a dark day for the Internet community. They have said time and time again that they want Congress to ban spam entirely. This bill appears to have been written by big-money marketing interests instead of by people who want to help the Internet thrive.”

CAUCE board member John Mozena agreed. “Since this bill legitimizes junk e-mail, we can expect to see a lot of companies that had been held back by a string of court rulings that found spam to be analogous to trespass starting to use junk e-mail as a component of their marketing campaigns. Imagine what happens when every company that buys newspaper ads, that buys radio spots or direct postal mail begins to spam. You'd never get yourself removed from every mailing list.”

Joe Keeley, legislative aide to Murkowski, said that it's unclear when the House will move on the bill, because there hasn't been much activity in the House on the telephone consumer protection bill