Microsoft is calling for new laws to tackle unsolicited commercial emailing as America’s clampdown on spam escalates.

The software colossus has proposed a series of measures – including a scheme for legitimate marketers – in a bid to unite the various factions demanding action against spam, which now represents around 40% of email traffic.

Like several existing bills introduced to tackle the problem, Microsoft’s measures include increased fines for the peddling of services such as pornography and fraudulent get-rich-quick schemes. And, like legislation introduced last month by Senator Charles Schumer (Democrat, New York) [WAMN: 29-Apr-03], it calls for commercial messages to include the prefix ‘ADV’ in the subject line.

But Microsoft’s proposals differ from other suggested measures in that they include a ‘trusted sender’ programme for email marketers who obey a series of rules, such as complying with requests from consumers to be removed from mailing lists. Firms admitted into the scheme would not have to use the ADV prefix.

The ‘trusted sender’ rules would be drawn up by industry groups, managed by an independent body and ultimately overseen by the Federal Communications Commission.

Spam is now a hot topic in US lawmaking circles. Schumer’s is not the only anti-spam bill passing through Congress – legislation has also been introduced by senators Conrad Burns and Ron Wyden. Representatives W J Tauzin and F James Sensenbrenner Jr are also preparing a bill, as are representatives Heather A Wilson and Gene Green.

However, the fight against spam is threatened by the conflicting demands of interested parties. Marketers want the focus of legislation to be fraudulent spammers, with protection for legitimate marketing and a ban on consumers taking senders to court. But many consumer groups want to outlaw all unsolicited commercial email and give consumers the right to sue if they have not asked for a message.

Data sourced from: The Washington Post Online; additional content by WARC staff