Local News

FTC Takes Aims At Sexually Explicit Spam

Posted May 20, 2004 8:01 a.m. EDT

— E-mail inboxes may look different Thursday thanks to a new ruling by the Federal Trade Commission. Spammers must now warn recipients of explicit material contained in their e-mails.

Violators of

the new rules

could face a Federal lawsuit. Individuals could face fines up to $250,000, while companies could be fined $500,000.

The new rules dictate that a warning appear on the subject line which reads "Sexually explicit." Anyone sending that type of material must also provide a legitimate postal mailing address.

The rule also bars graphic images from appearing in the opening body of the message. Instead, the recipient must take some action in order to see the objectionable material, either by scrolling down in the e-mail or by clicking on a provided link.

"The challenge with this act will be how to deal with international e-mail coming in," said Paul Jones, a professor and public policy expert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Jones says enforcement is going to be a challenge, even if the law is well-intended.

"A mass of them coming is the issue the same way we have a problem with unsolicited phone calls during dinner -- those kinds of intrusions into our lives," Jones said.