Senate approves bill to tag spam

Saturday, May 17, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Legislation giving Missourians an easy way to spot unwanted commercial e-mail received final approval Friday.

But unlike the original proposal, the bill sent to the governor includes no statewide system of blocking annoying computer messages.

Attorney General Jay Nixon had proposed that people be allowed to place their e-mail addresses on a state-maintained blacklist similar to the state's popular No Call list for telemarketers.

As passed by the House and Senate, however, the bill requires only that unsolicited commercial e-mail contain the coding "ADV:" in the subject line to indicate that it is an advertisement.

The bill also would require those sending mass commercial e-mails -- known as "spam" -- to stop when people inform them that they do not want the material. It also would prohibit senders of e-mail from providing false or misleading information in the e-mail subject line.

"I think it's going to help," said Sen. Wayne Goode, D-St. Louis, who handled the bill in the Senate. "It's not going to end the spam problem, but it's a step in the right direction."

Exemptions from the requirement for an "ADV:" tag would be provided for banks, credit unions, farm credit services and licensed professionals or tradespeople trying to make appointments to sell goods or services.

Under the bill, each violation of the e-mail restrictions could result in a fine of $5,000, capped at $25,000 each day. The attorney general's office would have authority to pursue violators.

The legislation also would give the attorney general's office the authority to investigate reports that child pornography is contained on a Web site.

Those who run sites containing such material would have five days to remove the objectionable material, after which the attorney general could seek an injunction.

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