Wednesday, December 17, 2003

I wish I could say I was surprised

The anti-spam law that Bush just signed has been widely publicized as a tool for bringing relief from the incessant barrage of spam that many of us receive. The problems with this law are not quite so well publicized... the law, which was drafted by the Direct Marketing Association (which in any less-bizarre political climate this might be seen to be a conflict of interest), was specifically created to supercede and eliminate tougher existing state laws. Spam king Alan Ralsky, who is directly responsible for literally billions of spam emails, told reporters that the passage of the House bill "made my day".

The biggest problem with this law is that it actually provides a legal mechanism for businesses to increase the amount of spam they send out. Under the new law all spam is legal as long as there is an 'opt-out' method; the law does not place requirements on the timeliness or efficacy of the opt-out process. This law is less restrictive than a number of state anti-spam laws that it supercedes... does anyone remember the olden times when the republicans talked about smaller federal government and more states rights? I know it was a long time ago (all of 3 years or so), so you're forgiven if the idea sounds absurd to you now.

Most of the spam that is received in Europe comes from the US. The UK recently passed an anti-spam law that actually seeks to protect its citizens from unwanted advertising, rather than fortifying the 'rights' of big businesses at the expense of the people. Unfortunately, people in the UK will still be receiving a significant amount of spam from the US that is now legal as the result of this new law. Fortunately for the US, however, the impression people in the UK have of us cannot really drop any lower, so the social consequences of the new law will not be too extreme.