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Lawmakers Want to Trash Junk E-Mail

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RALEIGH — How many times have you checked your e-mail only to find dozens of messages you do not want?

There is a bill before theNorth Carolina Houseaimed at helping users trash spam or junk e-mail.

Junk e-mail is one of the most aggravating aspects of using the Internet. It is a growing problem, and one that will be difficult to solve, even by law.

"This bill is within the mainstream of consumer protection, and should have enough deterrent effect to help," saysSen. Eric Reeves.

Reeves' bill goes after people or companies that send millions of unwanted messages. They usually try to sell you something or push pornography.

Junk e-mail can interrupt electronic commerce, stock transactions and other important mail functions by clogging mail computers.

If a user can prove damage, the junk mail sender could face serious charges.

"They can be damaged anywhere between a misdemeanor offense and up to a felony depending on the damage that they create," Reeves said.

Some Web browsers and Internet service providers fight spam allowing users to filter incoming e-mail based on certain criteria. There are also commercial programs available such asSpam Busterby Contact Plus.

"The difficulty will be catching these people and bringing them to justice," Reeves said.

The legislation is the major hurdle. Who will search for unscrupulous junk mailers? Other states have passed similar laws and Congress has taken some action, but those looking for a fast buck on the Internet do not seem threatened.

AOL, and other big service providers have taken action against a few bulk mailers, but the little guys keep cropping up. Completely removing the problem will be no easy task.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
Joe Frieda, Photographer
Jason Darwin, Web Editor

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