State leaders hope that a "Do Not Spam" list will slow the onslaught of pornographic and other illicit e-mail, especially to children.
Rep. Michael Styler, R-Delta, has proposed the creation of an electronic registry for e-mail addresses in HB165, hoping for a similar impact on unsolicited junk e-mail as last year's federal Do Not Call list had on telemarketing calls. Once registered, the e-mail addresses could potentially be protected from pornographic advertisements, gambling promotions and other inappropriate messages.
"This is a revolutionary idea that parents can just sign up and protect what is coming into their homes," Styler said.
Like the Do Not Call list, companies sending out mass e-mailings would have to clean their database of any addresses on the list or face misdemeanor charges. A person who steals names from the database could also face second-degree felony charges.
Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said the registry would be more direct in its protection of children than the federal "canned spam" law passed last year. That bill gave the Federal Trade Commission the power to create a similar list, although it was more broadly targeted to all spam mail, not just the "inappropriate" e-mail prohibited by Styler's bill.
The bill is modeled after a Washington law that has allowed that state to pursue spammers throughout the country, and is very similar to a law being considered in Michigan this year.
"We're very concerned, as parents, about the amount of information that is being forced upon our children," Shurtleff said. The registry would also be very secure, protecting the e-mail addresses that are registered from being misused by spammers. Ben Dahl, co-founder of Unspam, has developed software that could be used by the state if the registry is approved. Put simply, the program would allow companies to have their e-mail databases scrubbed of registered addresses, but would not actually show the registered e-mails.
What the program will not do, however, is completely protect children, Dahl said. Even though a majority of the mass e-mailings, even those from off-shore companies, originate in the United States, many of them are difficult to find,"Nothing about this child registry will replace vigilant parenting," Dahl said. "We want to give parents powerful tools to help them do their job better."