Congress, Email Providers Seek US Spam Clampdown

29 April 2003

America’s ‘spam’ email marketers are under fire on two fronts.

In Congress, Senator Charles Schumer (Democrat, New York) has proposed the creation of a nationwide ‘do-not-email’ list, similar to the ‘do-not-call’ telemarketing register being set up by the Federal Trade Commission.

Schumer’s legislation – which follows another anti-spam bill from senators Conrad Burns and Ron Wyden – would force senders of unsolicited email to insert the letters ‘ADV’ (i.e. advertisement) in the subject line of the email and include a working opt-out mechanism. It would also outlaw technology used for ‘harvesting’, the random gathering of email addresses.

Under Schumer’s legislation, the FTC would also oversee the do-not-email list, which would require $75 million (€68m; £47m) to set up and enforce. Firms breaching the code could be subject to criminal penalties, including prison sentences and fines, plus civil damages of $5,000 per breach.

Meanwhile, spam is also under attack from email service providers, with America Online, Yahoo! and Microsoft formally joining forces to tackle unsolicited marketing communications.

The trio will work together to make it harder for spammers to use their email systems. In particular, they will try to prevent companies creating numerous fraudulent email addresses, clamp down on the use of misleading headers and hidden senders, and develop ways for email providers to swap information on consumer complaints. They will also work out how better to preserve information that can be used by regulators.

However, some email marketers have hit back at attempts to muzzle them. A non-profit group called is suing several spam-tracking organisations.

The accused firms collect data on spammers and provide internet service providers with blacklists, companies on which can have their email blocked and websites taken down. is claiming that the tracking firms, such as and, have put legitimate marketers on their blacklists, effectively destroying their businesses.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff