U.S. House of Representatives Passes Spam Bill

WASHINGTON (07/18/2000) - The U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill to regulate unsolicited commercial e-mail, better known as spam among Internet users and ISPs (Internet service providers).

The Unsolicited Electronic Mail Act, which requires accurate return addresses on unsolicited commercial e-mail and makes it illegal to continue sending junk e-mail to someone after theyhave asked to be removed from a distribution list, passed 427 to 1.

The bill's sponsor, Representative Heather Wilson, a Republican from New Mexico, said passage of the act was the culmination of more than a year of coalition building after spam bills with similar intent became bogged down in U.S. Congress two years ago.

"We are one big step closer to providing consumers with the ability to free themselves from the annoying and sometimes offensive flood of junk e-mail clogging their computers," Wilson said in a statement.

Wilson argued that the amount of junk e-mail that contains pornographic solicitations or links to X-rated Web sites was one reason the bill should pass. But she also was driven by ISPs who complained that junk e-mail harms their operations by tying up and sometimes crashing their servers.

The bill provides relief for ISPs by allowing them to sue spammers for US$500 per message if they violate the ISPs' junk e-mail policy. The bill also would require ISPs to let their customers "opt out," or remove their names from junk e-mail lists, if the ISP profits from allowing the spam into their system.

The bill additionally would set a penalty for continuing to send junk e-mail after someone has asked for it to stop and would require unsolicited commercial e-mail to be labeled. Under the terms of the bill, it would be a misdemeanor criminal offense when spammers intentionally use fraudulent return addresses or routing information.

Senator Conrad Burns, a Republican from Montana, has introduced a similar version of Wilson'sbill in the U.S. Senate.

The one person to vote against the Unsolicited Electronic Mail Act Tuesday was Ron Paul, a Republican from Texas.

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