FTC chief says antispam bills won't work


Internet users fed up with the seemingly endless flow of spam should pin their hopes on a technological solutions rather than legislative ones, a top U.S. regulator said this week.

"No one should expect any new law to make a substantial difference by itself," Federal Trade Commission Chairman Timothy J. Muris told a group of business executives and government officials at a conference in Aspen, Colo., Tuesday.

The commissioner's remarks, released in a statement by the FTC office, come in the wake of a handful of antispam bills that have been introduced in the last year.

Muris warned, however, that some of the proposed legislation could actually make it more difficult to prosecute spammers. One bill, for instance, makes suing spammers more complicated than it is under the FTC Act, Muris said, and another requires federal prosecutors to prove a spammer falsified his identity in 10,000 different e-mails to bring a felony charge.

Part of the problem of tracking down spammers is their ability to retain anonymity and the low cost of sending unsolicited commercial e-mail, he said.

"Eventually, the spam problem will be reduced, if at all, through technological innovation ... legislation cannot do much to solve the problem," Muris said, according to the statement.

The commissioner called on ISPs to help consumers more easily report spam and said that the FTC would continue to investigate new technologies to fight the problem.

Combating spam "is one of the most daunting consumer protection problems FTC has ever faced," Muris said.

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