FTC Sees Spam Law Working

NEW YORK The CAN-SPAM Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2004, has helped to improve the problem of spam, the Federal Trade Commission said in a progress report to Congress required under the law.

The FTC noted that, by most measures, the amount of spam reaching consumers is steady or declining.

Legal actions taken by the FTC and state authorities have deterred spammers, the agency concluded. Officials also credit the improvements to e-mail providers’ beefed-up filtering technology, and consumers taking steps to ward off spam.

“It’s very difficult to parse out the effect of the law versus the technological advances on the amount of spam,” said Lydia Parnes, director of the consumer protection division at the FTC, at a press conference. “The act has set out best practices for companies that use commercial e-mail.”

The spam law requires that all commercial e-mail include an unsubscribe option, physical address and accurate “from” label. It forbids misleading subject lines and using common spamming tactics, like sending e-mail through “hijacked” computers.

“Spam has not, as once feared, destroyed the promise of e-mail,” the FTC reported.

The FTC provided no hard numbers, but MX Logic, an anti-spam software maker, said 67 percent of the e-mail going through its system during the first eight months of 2005 was classified as spam. That’s a 9 percent decrease from the previous year.

Parnes said further technological advances, particularly those that can authenticate the true identities of senders, would further help Internet service providers filter e-mail and make enforcement by authorities easier.

In its report, the FTC asks Congress to pass measures that make it easier for federal authorities to cooperate to pursue international spam rings, while also supporting consumer education and e-mail authentication systems.