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What spam law? Next up ... spim.

Despite a federal law meant to curb the delivery of unsolicited commercial e-mails, users have seen little reprieve in the amount of unsolicited e-mails that fill their inboxes each day.

As any e-mail user can attest, the U.S. anti-spam legislation (CANSPAM) that took effect January 1, 2004, has had little effect on reducing the amount of junk e-mail (spare) that is being sent at an ever-growing rate. Seventy-two percent of the 1,400 Internet users surveyed by the Pew Internet and American Life Project between February 3 and March 1 said they have seen no decline in the amount of spare they receive at work since the law took effect; about 77 percent said they were getting the same or more spam at home. Slightly more than half said they have seen no change in the amount of spam they received at home or work. As a result, nearly 30 percent said they have reduced their use of e-mail.

According to filtering company Brightmail, 62 percent of all e-mail sent in February consisted of unsolicited bulk messages advertising get-rich-quick schemes, miracle diets, and ways to improve almost every body part. That is up from 58 percent in December.

The nation's largest Internet providers have filed federal lawsuits in an attempt to put the biggest "spammers" out of business. Six lawsuits filed by America Online, EarthLink, Yahoo, and Microsoft Corp. were filed in California, Georgia, Virginia, and Washington state and seek injunctions to shut down spammers and force them to pay damages that could amount to millions. "Spam ... is destroying one of the most important communications tools of our time," Les Seagraves, vice president of EarthLink, told the media. The lawsuits are among the first to be based partly on the new federal CAN-SPAM Act. Internet companies say the lawsuits are just one of many steps they are taking to combat spare. All of them are working on technology designed to identify spam that masquerades as legitimate e-mail.

The four Internet providers have sued defendants whom they contend are sending spam. By filing lawsuits, the providers gain the right to subpoena bank and telephone records, as well as any other records that may help identify the spammers. It will be difficult--all but seven of the 222 defendants in the six lawsuits were unnamed because the Internet providers have not yet confirmed their true identities.

The recent crackdown on spare by lawmakers and Internet companies may be pushing illicit marketers to expand into new technologies. Instant-messenger spare, or "spire," is popping up on computer screens more frequently. Spim is more intrusive than spam because it pops up instantly on the screen, requiring users to accept or decline the messages before they will go away.

Consulting firm Ferris Research estimates about 500 million spims were sent in 2003--double the number sent in 2002. Messaging companies are preparing for the fight. Most spim is generated by automated programs that simulate instant messaging (IM) users and send spam messages to a predetermined set of screen names, which are generated randomly or harvested off the Internet. IM services have taken some steps to stop spire before it gets out of hand. MSN Messenger is automatically set so users don't receive messages from people not on their buddy lists. MSN, Yahoo Messenger, and AOL's IM service require users to verify a word when they register for an ID. AOL's service boots off users who send instant messages to a large number of people in a short timeframe.
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Title Annotation:Up front: news, trends & analysis
Author:Swartz, Nikki
Publication:Information Management Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2004
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