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Posted on November 13, 2003:
It’s time to stop onslaught of spam e-mail
By Maryland Senator Roy Dyson
This is the time of year when I write about legislative proposals that will be introduced during the 2004 General Assembly Session which convenes in a little more than two months.
One very important idea that has surfaced deals with the issue of “spam” or “junk” e-mail. For this reason, I am pleased to be co-sponsoring a bill being offered by my colleague in the Maryland General Assembly, Senator Paula C. Hollinger (D-Baltimore County).
Senator Hollinger’s anti-spam bill is “designed to allow electronic mail recipients to recognize unsolicited commercial and adult e-mail before it is opened and avoid it if they are not interested,” according to Senator Hollinger.
This month, the national “do-not call” list preventing telemarketers from calling households who do not wish to be bothered with sales pitches during their precious few hours at home after a busy day, was implemented. Everyone I have talked to is extremely pleased about the “do not call” list.
Although the telemarketing industry has threatened legal action, the U.S. Congress and President Bush have signaled a willingness to do whatever is necessary to make sure this law stays firmly on the books.
But just when we thought the end of massive telemarketing was past us, a new telecommunications annoyance has gotten out of control. Spam e-mail has been around pretty much since the advent of this revolutionary technology. However, it is getting completely out of control. Unfortunately, e-mail spam, like junk mail and telemarketing calls, is becoming more than just a minor irritant. It diverts attention, uses up valuable space on the network and takes up time that should be devoted to responsible requests
Ask a large group of people what form of communication they use the most and the vast majority will say e-mail. It is a quick, easy and free way to get your message to a family member, friend, or a constituent. Plus, it allows you to control the message without any interference from the person you are communicating with.
Senator Hollinger’s bill would require “the sender of unsolicited commercial e-mail to have ADV: as the first four characters in the subject line. It also requires ADV:ADULT as the first nine characters in the subject line for unsolicited sexually explicit commercial e-mail.” In years past, most of the e-mails that came to my office were from constituents writing to express support or opposition to legislation, report a problem they were having or passing along pertinent information of interest to me.
Now, when I go to my e-mails, most of it is spam. Some of it is offensive and commercial or both. All of it is essentially worthless. It is so pervasive that many networks simply do not have the manpower to police it so they just let it go into users’ computers. Many times I have opened e-mails with the subject matter saying, “Please contact me immediately,” “urgent request,” and “your kind attention, please.”
Originally, I thought these were e-mails sent by constituents in serious need. Instead, they were scams from foreign countries, unseemly websites and other useless commercial solicitation.
I try to clean out my deleted files every week. When I checked my deleted files to clean them out this week, I discovered that I have 1,158 e-mails in that folder, 608 of which are unread -- all in one week!
Of the spam e-mails I did make the mistake of opening, there were subject matters that read: “Please get back to me immediately” or had a person’s name that I did not recognize as the sender and another person’s name I did not recognize as the subject matter. I assumed it was a new constituent I did not know writing on behalf of another constituent in need of my help. This has often been the case in the past. Instead, it was an offer to buy prescription drugs online.
Unfortunately, since many of these spam e-mails contain damaging viruses, I have been advised by my network coordinator not to open any e-mails in which I do not recognize the subject or the person/business sending the e-mail.
This is not the way it should be. Since e-mail is the number one form of communication, I fear that some legitimate e-mails asking for my help will be deleted because the subject will be too vague and the e-mail address will be unknown to me.
That is why this commercial electronic mail legislation is so important. I cannot be inundated by mass bulk e-mail for the reasons I have mentioned and many others.
This is picking up attention in the U.S. Congress. The Senate recently unanimously passed a bill that will outlaw bulk e-mail. While this is a good step, the Congress moves much slower than the state when it comes to passing legislation.
I believe that my fellow colleagues will see the wisdom of this bill and pass it during the 2004 General Assembly Session.
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