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Consumers 'just say no' to prolific internet spam.

January 14, 2002

Ellen Spertus was outraged when still sent her e-mail after she declined such pitches. So she sued the online retailer under California's 1998 anti-spam law.

Spertus is among a handful of individuals who have chosen to fight unsolicited e-mail in court. They've had mixed success so far in what many consider only the early skirmishes of a war on spam.

Junk e-mail is a growing and costly nuisance, clogging e-mail systems with promises to lose weight, make money or see people naked.

Since the mid-1990s, Internet service providers like America Online and EarthLink have won millions of dollars in settlements and judgments against purveyors of spam under trespass, computer fraud and other laws.

Nineteen states have passed spam-specific laws. The statutes prohibit false messages or headers, require labels in subject lines or the option of declining a marketer's future mailings.

Although the laws don't ban unsolicited e-mail outright, frustrated recipients can often find a violation or two when hitting the delete button isn't emotionally satisfying.

Spam is on the rise despite the laws. Spam filtering company Brightmail identified nearly

2 million spam attacks in December, a 16-fold increase from two years earlier.

David Sorkin, a professor at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, considers state laws weak. Only Delaware requires permission before sending commercial bulk e-mail, but he knows of no cases filed there.

Bills pending in Congress aren't any stronger, and the chief proposal under consideration was weakened by House committees to the point that anti-spam advocates now oppose it.

By:Associated Press. Copyright © The Journal-Standard 2002


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