FTC Testifies on Law Enforcement Targeting Spam

For Release

The Federal Trade Commission today told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that it has established a special Task Force of federal and state law enforcers to target illegal spam. In testimony to the Committee, FTC Chairman Timothy J. Muris said, “The Task Force is co-sponsored by the FTC and the Attorney General of Washington, and is comprised of 136 members representing 36 states, several units within the Department of Justice, and the FTC.” The FTC trains law enforcers on investigative techniques that are effective in tracking spammers, and the Task Force conducts monthly conference calls to share information on spam trends, technologies, investigative techniques, targets, and cases, the testimony says.

Muris told the Committee that the FTC is on target to complete the array of rulemakings and reports required by the CAN-SPAM Act, which was enacted December 16, 2003. In advance of the Congressionally established deadline, the Commission issued a Rule requiring a mark or notice that will identify spam that contains sexually oriented material. That rule now requires all messages containing sexually oriented material to include the warning “SEXUALLY- EXPLICIT : ” in the subject line.

“In addition, on March 11, 2004, the Commission issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to define the relevant criteria to be used in determining ‘the primary purpose’ of a commercial electronic mail message subject to CAN-SPAM’s provisions.”

The testimony notes that the Commission sought public comments from interested parties on a plan and timetable for establishing a National Do-Not-Email Registry and any technical, security, privacy, or enforceability issues associated with establishing such a registry. “To supplement information collected from this public comment process, the staff has used additional tools to enhance its understanding of all relevant issues,” Muris said. “First, the staff has held meetings on the record with more than 80 interested parties representing more than 60 organizations to explore all aspects of the concept of a ‘Do-Not Email Registry’ from as many viewpoints as possible.” Muris said the Commission also obtained relevant information from a number of Internet Service Providers and issued a Request for Information from vendors for creation of such a registry. “Through these efforts, the Commission has received invaluable information that will allow us to prepare a comprehensive report,” the testimony states.

The testimony says FTC staff also is preparing:

  • A report due September 16, 2004, setting forth a system of monetary rewards to encourage informants to report CAN-SPAM violators;
  • A report due June 16, 2005, recommending whether or not commercial electronic mail should be identified as such in its subject line by the use of a label like “ADV;” and
  • A report due December 16, 2005, on the efficacy of the Act.

The Commission vote to approve the testimony was 5-0.

 

Copies of the testimony are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

(FTC File No. P00 4101)

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