A Weblog About Topics and Issues Discussed in the Book Spam Kings by Brian McWilliams

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December 23, 2005

FTC opts out of Spamhaus input

I haven't yet finished reading the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's 116-page Report to Congress on the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act. But I've already spotted a conspicuous omission.

The FTC conducted wide ranging interviews with scores of smart people. (Transcripts of some of the interviews are available online.) Yet for some reason, Spamhaus director Steve Linford was not among those interviewed. Nor was Spamhaus cited once in the agency's report.

Ask any spammer, "Who's done more to make your life difficult, The Federal Trade Commission, or Spamhaus?" I'm pretty sure the spammer won't say the FTC.

Linford and his associates at Spamhaus probably know as much about spam trends as anyone in the world. Why wouldn't the FTC consult them?

Now, maybe the FTC decided to leave England-based Linford out because he isn't American. (Then again, the FTC interviewed a Canadian, Chris Lewis of Nortel Networks.)

Or maybe the FTC didn't really want to hear what Linford had to say. He has been an outspoken critic of CAN-SPAM from the start. He was even quoted as saying the law may have worsened the spam problem.

Interesting that the FTC did get input from Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president for the Direct Marketing Association. Linford and others have accused the DMA of lobbying Congress to weaken CAN-SPAM.

The FTC report concludes that CAN-SPAM has been effective, which pretty much ensures there won't be any changes to the law or any new federal anti-spam legislation.

Posted by brian at December 23, 2005 12:39 PM


The Commission had a choice.
It could tell Congress the law was not effective, because it did nothing to control volume, while allowing mailers to spam away and this was hurting smaller Internet Access Providers.
Alternatively, the Commission could toe the "party line" and tell Congress, "CANSPAM Act Effective" in compelling marketers to respect opt-out requests, while filters were reducing the amount of spam consumers were receiving in their inbox, at least at the large mailbox providers, provide a laundry list of court cases, while suggesting that technology was the ultimate answer.
Well guess what? The Commission wrote a politically correct report, ignored the evidence out of Australia, the work done by the Canadian Task Force on Spam and did not interview SpamHaus.
Should we be surprised? Not really. The Commission was stripped of its "cajones" during the Regan Administration. In the discussions over how to deal with "spam," since the late 1990's, the Agency has minded its "p's and q's."
The Commission has focused its position on protecting consumers from "fraudulent activity;" which is its mandate. The result? Surprise, surprise, we end up with a law, the CANSPAM Act which only focuses on thwarting fraudulent activity, leaving the rest of the solution, including volume control to the market place.
But, then the FTC has never been the right agency to lead the charge against "spam."
Which agency should that be? Why the FCC of course, since "spam" is all about communication over the Internet. Remember over the strong objections of the DMA, the FCC wrote a set of regulations under the CANSPAM Act for wireless and SMS that mandate affirmative consent, while creating a domain wide do not email registry that prohibits sending of UCE to registered domains.

Posted by: John Glube at December 23, 2005 9:01 PM


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