An Open Letter to Congress about Spam

I run a small technology company in Greenville with 23 employees.

For some time I have been personally aware of how much of my own time both at home and at work is taken up getting rid of Unsolicited Commercial Bulk Email (spam). I had over 100 spam messages at home this morning.

Recently, I have looked at statistics that our Internet server provider made available. Our company is receiving something on the order of 5 thousand million characters (5 Gigabytes) of email every month. Based on how much email we actually send, I can estimate that virtually all of that email received is spam (and this is my own experience). A conservative calculation shows that it costs us about $75,000 a year to handle unsolicited bulk email at our company.

Also a spammer used an Internet-connected computer at our company (without our permission) to forward their spam messages. To say the least it was an embarrassment for a BellSouth security official to call me to inform me that our company was sending millions of spam messages offering cheap mortgages.

I have heard that there are currently some very poor bills before Congress that would make spam worse, not better. I believe that there are some key provisions that any legislation to provide relief to people like me should have.

  1. Federal legislation should not preempt more strict state legislation.
  2. Federal legislation should not prevent citizens from suing spammers for actual damages.
  3. Forgery of or hiding the sender of a commercial email should be a crime.
  4. Internet service providers should be free to make and enforce agreements prohibiting their services from being used for unsolicited bulk email.
  5. Sending bulk messages to random email address to determine if they are real or not (so-called "dictionary attacks" or "address harvesting") should be considered a theft of services.
  6. Putting "ADV:" in an email header, or providing an "opt-out" link in the message does not turn something bad into something acceptable.
  7. Adequate funding should be provided for the Federal government to prosecute frauds perpetrated through email spam.
  8. It should be a Federal crime to use computers without their owners permission to send spam across state lines (the use of "open relays" and "open proxies").
  9. The content of spam doesn't matter. If doesn't matter if it is a scam, or pornography. If it's unsolicited and bulk, it's spam.

I believe in our Constitutional protection of free speech. But there is no right to fraudulent speech, there is no right to steal services from Internet providers to send spam, and there is no right for someone else to have to force my company to pay for the service to receive bulk unsolicited commercial messages.

Kevin (

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