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Lobbyist Money Help  

Spam e-mail could be illegal in Missouri

March 09, 2005
By: Elizabeth Baird
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Some legislators say they want to delete spam e-mail here in Missouri.

A bill presented to the House Utilities Committee on Wednesday would outlaw the transmission of "deceptive and unsolicited" commercial e-mail.

The bill would impose a felony on offenders putting misleading information in the subject and sender line. Prison time could result for repeat offenders.

"[The bill] would help reduce amount of unsolicited e-mails by creating penalties for people that intentionally mislead e-mail recepients," bill sponsor Rep. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, said. "The national average spent on spam is about $17 billion."

Most spam is classified as mass, unsolicited e-mails with the intent to sell or distribute properties, goods or services.

AOL lobbyist Gary Burton said spam e-mail is rapidly becoming half the traffic on the Internet.

"The sheer volume of spam, which is growing at an exponential rate, is overwhelming existing network systems, as well as consumers' in-boxes," Burton said.

The bill would not find fault with existing business relationships, or responses to requests for information.

James Klahr of the Missouri Attorney General's office said the felony stipulation would allow his office to go after spammers, both in Missouri and elsewhere, who are sending unwanted e-mail.

"We would have the ability to go out of state and bring someone in," said Klahr, "Obviously until we pass this law, it will be hard to know if what they are doing is illegal or not, but we have some targets that we would like to follow through on."

The only opposition to the bill came from Michael Grote, who works for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. He urged committee members to examine what constitutes a deceptive e-mail, as his department sends out a weekly newsletter that does not contain their name in the header.

"Even though it says Missouri Chamber of Commerce all over the body of the e-mail, we would be in violation because of that header information." said Grote, "If those situations are resovled, which I think the sponsor is willing to do, that would change our position on the legislation."

Similar legislation has passed in Ohio, Virginia and Maryland.