The US Senate has approved landmark anti-spam legislation that could mean $6 million fines or five-year jail terms for junk-email offenders.
The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Bill won an overwhelming support in the House of Representatives, and the Bill is made law by President Bush, it will mark the first attempt to put a stop on junk mail.
However, critics say the Bill will do little to solve the problem of spam, and could potentially make it worse. CAN-SPAM puts the onus on the email user to opt out of receiving commercial email, instead of requiring that spammers receive opt-in permission before sending email.
The Bill is also condemned for not allowing individual email users to sue spammers – only Internet service providers and state attorneys general will be able to sue on behalf of American users.
Senator Charles Schumer admits that "CAN-SPAM will not eliminate all spam, but it will help". He said: "If we did nothing, email would be ruined in a few years and nobody would use it. With this bill, Congress is saying, 'If you're a spammer, you could wind up in the slammer.'"
The House is expected to schedule a final vote on the bill on December 2. Then the bill will go to President Bush to be signed into law.
In the UK, anti-spam regulations come into force on December 11. The new regulations, in response to the EU's Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, are already two months late.
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