- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 23, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) The deluge of unsolicited e-mail, or spam, has become such a scourge that even the world's leading consumer marketing lobby says the time has come for federal restrictions.
The Direct Marketing Association, which once opposed any federal anti-spam legislation, says it will lobby for federal and state laws to control the growth of million-message batches of e-mails soliciting everything from raunchy sex videos to carpet cleaning.
But one top bulk e-mailer says the guidelines proposed by the DMA on Monday would help stabilize his business. An anti-spam group believes the DMA proposal could increase unwanted e-mail.
A daily flood of spam vexes consumers and Internet providers whose attempts to block it are circumvented by stealthy e-mailing technology and makes legitimate commercial e-mail indistinguishable from unwanted spam, says the DMA, which has 4,700 members.
"We need legislation," said Jerry Cerasale, the DMA's vice president for government affairs. "We believe the sheer volume will just swamp the medium and the medium will no longer be useful for marketing."
The guidelines proposed by the DMA, which is holding its annual convention in San Francisco this week, aim to prohibit marketers from sending unsolicited e-mails that use deceptive identifiers, such as false subject lines and return addresses.
Mr. Cerasale said marketers should be required to list the physical address and contact information of the business on whose behalf the message is sent. A prominent "unsubscribe" option should be available for recipients who wish to halt further mailings, he said.
"If you can't unsubscribe, there's no way to stop it," Mr. Cerasale said. "We need to give the consumer the means to try and stop it."
Mr. Cerasale said the DMA supports unsolicited e-mail marketing as long as it targets a certain demographic or interest group say, 25- to 35-year-olds or homeowners and isn't sent to every e-mail address one can gather.
Such guidelines "might clear out some of the scam artists, but would probably increase the amount of unsolicited e-mails sent by 'legitimate' companies," said John Mozena, co-founder of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail.
Mr. Mozena, based in Detroit, said his group pushes for an "opt-in" solution that permits e-mail marketing only at the recipient's request, or from companies with which the recipient is a customer.
The European Union enacted such a law, which takes effect Oct. 31, 2003. About half the U.S. states have anti-spam laws, none as strident as the European measure.
Tom Cowles, who heads Empire Towers Corp., one of the world's largest bulk e-mail firms, said he agrees "wholeheartedly" with the DMA proposal because he believes it will give his business more legitimacy.
Mr. Cowles and other spammers say they have been forced to cloak their messages with fake headers and use other deceptive identifiers because anti-spam activists harangue the Internet service providers who host their businesses.
When the service provider discovers the spam business, the spammer's Web site often is taken down and with it disappears the software to remove the recipient from future unsolicited mailings.
Mr. Cowles said guidelines should restrict e-mail content while forcing Internet service providers to host marketers that follow the rules.
E-mail marketing "should be similar to any other kind of marketing," said Mr. Cowles, of Bowling Green, Ohio.
"Deceptive advertising should be penalized. If someone wants to be removed from your list, they should be removed."

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