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Utah Anti-Kids-Spam Registry "a Flop" 117

Posted by kdawson
from the show-me-the-money dept.
Eric Goldman writes "A couple of years ago Utah enacted a 'Child Protection Registry.' The idea was to allow parents to register kids' email addresses and then to require certain email senders to filter their lists against that database before sending their emails. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the Utah registry has been a 'financial flop.' Initially projected to generate $3-6 million in revenues for Utah, it has instead produced total revenues of less than $200,000. 80% of this has gone to Unspam, the for-profit registry operator; Utah's share of the registry's revenues has been a paltry $37,445. Worse, Utah has spent $100,000 (so far) to defend the private company from legal challenges by free-speech, advertising, and porn interests."
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Utah Anti-Kids-Spam Registry "a Flop"

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  • by fatduck (961824) * on Sunday May 06, 2007 @02:51PM (#19012055)
    From TFA:

    The Utah law requires companies that sell adult-oriented products and services to submit their e-mail lists to Unspam to be "scrubbed" of addresses to which minors have access. The cost is half a cent for every address they submit, and Unspam gets 80 percent of the money.
    So they passed a law requiring mass email-senders to pay for a service from a specific private corporation? Brilliant.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BakaHoushi (786009)
      I have an idea. Let's tinker and fine-tune the law to say "Politicians of any race, creed, party, or ideology shall not be allowed to use, be near, or think about any piece of technology more advanced than the ballpoint pen. Nor shall any legislation based on said technology ever be even mentioned."

      I don't think I've ever read anything good come out of any proposal made by a politician about the Internet. Senators, Representatives.... Please, go home (walking in the snow, uphill both ways, of course) back t
      • by maxume (22995)
        The internet was initially funded by the US government. Go figure.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by BakaHoushi (786009)
          This is true. But, IIRC, wasn't its initial purpose something along the lines of military communication in the event of an emergency? I seem to recall something like that, and I'd like to see what senators/reps. and such were involved.

          Regardless, it feels almost like the Internet was an accident in that way. A great accident, IMHO, but an accident nonetheless. And I can't help but feel the vast majority of lawmakers have no clue as to the Internet or how it works. To be fair, I'll admit my knowledge of the
          • wasn't its initial purpose something along the lines of military communication in the event of an emergency?

            There were actually a few purposes, one of which is mentioned here [wikipedia.org] (note the Background of Arpanet section). Basically, apart from communications, it was also meant to make new software readily available. One other purpose not really mentioned in the Wikipedia article is that one would not need to always upgrade a multi-million dollar (in those days) computer just to run computations faster. On

            • by CastrTroy (595695)
              Which can be really great depending on the problem. If you look at folding at home, the ratio of data : computation is quite low, so you get a good deal. Pass a little bit of data, and have the computers run the process, and send back a little bit of data. However, if you're doing something like parallelized video compression, you need a fairly fast network over which the data is travelling, because of a very high data : computation ratio. Stuff like this can be parallelized over a home network, but doi
              • Which can be really great depending on the problem. If you look at folding at home, the ratio of data : computation is quite low, so you get a good deal. Pass a little bit of data, and have the computers run the process, and send back a little bit of data. However, if you're doing something like parallelized video compression, you need a fairly fast network over which the data is travelling, because of a very high data : computation ratio. Stuff like this can be parallelized over a home network, but doing s

          • by CastrTroy (595695)
            It was a big accident because it was pretty much completely developed into it's current form before any business interests or politicians even knew what it was. Because of this, it was able to evolve into something that was open and free (as in speech) for all it's users. Had it's entire development been overseen by the government and corporations, I think it would have ended up being a huge flop.
    • by Kenrod (188428) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:14PM (#19012213)
      It is common for state regulations to be enforced by private sub-contractors which charge fees. This means less cost for the government.

      In this case, because there is a free speech issue with the regulation, both the state and sub-contractor are getting sued instead instead collecting fees. So the regulation is costing money instead of making it.

      My advice for the people of Utah is that if they believe the regulation is a good one, why should it matter if it turns a profit? If protecting kids is their goal, they should fight this to the bitter end.
      • #1. Is it protecting the kids? Is anyone taking any before and after measurements to see whether it is doing anything more than just costing money? I couldn't find anything about that in the article.

        #2. How much money do we want to spend on "protecting the children"? Is a trillion dollars a month too much to spend to prevent one kid from seeing one naked picture?
        • Why, this handy dandy bill is fool-proof child molester repellent! ...What's that? Can I prove that? Do you see any child molesters around here?
      • My advice for the people of Utah is that if they believe the regulation is a good one, why should it matter if it turns a profit? If protecting kids is their goal, they should fight this to the bitter end.

        Before the people of Utah waste tax payer dollars on a regulation they believe to be a "good one" perhaps there should be some clarification as to whether it is effective and whether it is constitutional. There is a group of people in Utah who see a way to scam tax payers out of their hard earned dollars b

      • by burnin1965 (535071) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @06:05PM (#19013641) Homepage

        This means less cost for the government.


        Is this why Brent Hatch, who lobbied to have this idiotic bill passed, was hired for 3 to 4 times what state attorneys are paid to now defend this idiotic legistation?

        Looks more and more like a scam where local cons are skimming tax dollars.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by elanghe (682691)
          Where do you get the idea that Brent Hatch lobbied for this? At least provide the back ground to backup what you are saying.
          • Where do you get the idea that Brent Hatch lobbied for this?

            I thought I read an article that was critical of CPR and Unspam which talked about the individuals who persuaded the legislature to pass the law and Hatch's name came up, however, after perusing several articles found through google I did not find the statement.

            Perhaps the impression that Brent was supporting CPR came from his support of CP80, involvement with Raph Yarro, and his father's (Orrin Hatch) public support of CP80 and other anti-pornogra

      • by rtb61 (674572)
        The concept that the people paying a private contractor who then generates a profit saves the government money, wtf, the people are the government. Whether they pay for it in private profit generating 'taxes' or they are taxed on their income and a part of that tax pays for those services, the cost to them is nearly the same, apart from of course the profit that gets milked off at the taxpayers expense.

        Well at least a part of the profit comes back, to pay to get those politicians who support those scams r

    • by WarlockD (623872) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:16PM (#19012223)
      I think the lawmaker who thought this up just didn't know how these things worked. Hell, look at this nugget.

      According to audio recordings of legislative proceedings, not a single legislator openly questioned the legitimacy, constitutionality or cost of the innocuous-sounding bill, despite written warnings from legislative analysts that it faced a "high probability" of being overturned in court.
      From TFA. They didn't even include the financial estmates on how much the lawsuits would cost:P Its not even just THIS pile of joy. Look at the other "trademark" bill. Why the hell would a company want to pay $250 to trademark itself in Utah for just the internet? Why the hell trademark your stuff in just Utah when the FEDERAL copyright office gives you the same rights? I don't remember where, but didn't the supreme court affirm trademarks work on the internet? Does Utah think they have a "Utah Internet"?

      I always thought Utah was a bit religious, but freaking naive?
      • by Joebert (946227)
        Remember, this is a state with shirts that read "Utah, but I'm taller.".
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        I always thought Utah was a bit religious, but freaking naive?

        Have you ever been to Utah? I think it has something to do with a critical number of residents wearing magical underwear. Some boundary condition is met and insanity ensues.

        I can't wait until some hacker gets his hands on this "children's registry". You haven't seen a marketing feeding frenzy until you've seen advertisers who think they've got a direct pipeline to the eyes and ears of "tweeners".

        I remember how transfixed I used to get as a kid

        • by yuna49 (905461)
          I heard a former executive at Nickelodeon speak at Anime Boston recently about ratings for kids programming. Whereas before advertisers wanted to know how shows were doing in the 6-11 year-old demographic, some advertisers are now asking about how popular shows are with two-year-olds!

        • To make things worse, it's only the spammers who market things explicitly to adults who are supposed to screen the email addresses of minors out. Any money Unspam doesn't make blocking spammers for "adult" material from minors' email addresses, it can make selling those addresses to people who want to spam minors...
      • ...when the FEDERAL (U.S.) Patent and Trademark office [uspto.gov]...
      • "I always thought Utah was a bit religious"
        Too little.

        "but freaking naive?"
        Too late.
      • by bmarklein (24314)

        I think the lawmaker who thought this up just didn't know how these things worked.
        This wasn't thought up by a lawmaker, it was proposed by... Unspam, the company that stood to benefit from it. They wrote the legislation. This kind of thing happens all the time.
    • So they passed a law requiring mass email-senders to pay for a service from a specific private corporation? Pork Barrel.

      Fixed that for you.
    • Didn't the CAN-SPAM law preempt state laws on SPAM, making this law unenforceable?
    • I wonder who the owner of that company is, and who he's buddies with in the legislature?

      There have to be better ways to do this. In fact, I don't remember getting adult spam in a long time, with exception to spam promoting ED pills.
  • Just as well (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous McCartneyf (1037584) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @02:54PM (#19012091) Homepage Journal
    This would never have made money for Utah.
    Imagine: a database of genuine e-mail addresses belonging to minors. If there wasn't adequate enforcement, we'd get a large-scale equivalent of those "unsubscribe" links that don't.
    Of course, enforcing a do-not-spam list for minors would cost something even if there weren't lawsuits against the existence of the list...
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by hazem (472289)
      Imagine: a database of genuine e-mail addresses belonging to minors.

      Yeah, I'll bet pedophiles and the fundamentalist Mormons (the ones who like to force 14 year old girls into marriage with their relatives) would love such a database.
  • The original idea was as stupid as forcing slashdot posters to check their analogies in a dictionary.
  • by dotslashdot (694478) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @02:57PM (#19012111)
    Just when Utahed they were doing it to protect the kids.
  • More stupidity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zappepcs (820751) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:05PM (#19012143) Journal
    Yet another attempt to regulate the Internet. Apparently, governments need help to understand that there is no way to line their pockets by regulating the internet, and no matter what they make into law, it will never apply to people in other countries.

    They need to spend money on educating users, and supporting people that will help users protect themselves from the threats that will continue to happen. Just as MS or antivirus software vendors: as soon as they plug one hole another appears. Spam is even worse. They were never able to stop people from sending junk mail to your mail box, they can't stop people from stealing ID information, and they will never be able to control the bits on the Internet to stop emails from getting to your inbox with laws.

    Parents need to protect their own children, and admittedly, they could use some sound solid advice. Why don't government groups spend time with that problem?
    • "and no matter what they make into law, it will never apply to people in other countries."

      Do you mean that people inside Utah can recieve spam that originated from outside Utah, perhaps outside the USA??? This internet is a confusing and dangerous thing....

      "Parents need to protect their own children, and admittedly, they could use some sound solid advice. Why don't government groups spend time with that problem?"

      And just who, in our wonderfully technology savvy government, would you have giving thi
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by zappepcs (820751)
        I personally would vote for subsidies to small businesses (VARs) that provide free or low cost training to home user's with kids on how to secure their home networks or PCs in order to protect themselves and kids from unwanted spam, and malicious websites. That means everything from mandating user friendly books on how to install and maintain software tools etc. to subsidies for Linux distributors who put up web pages that explain how to protect themselves. It wouldn't take much effort to get this going in
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cgenman (325138)
      "there is no way to line their pockets by regulating the internet,"

      This is not true, unforutnately. However, they need to realize that one cannot regularte the source of information on the internet, only the end users in your jurisdiction. Want to tax your citizens who are people buying used cars over the internet? Ok add a tax as they bring the car in for registration. Want to tax the sender of an MP3 of a local band in Batswana? Not going to happen.

      This particular piece of legislation was doomed to f
  • Welcome to (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:09PM (#19012173) Journal
    Utah [heraldextra.com]
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:10PM (#19012191) Homepage Journal
    in a central locatio, esp. those belonging to children, a GOOD idea? I'm surprised the spammers weren't using them to harvest email addresses....
    • by fatduck (961824) *
      That way the porn sites can use targeted advertising, as studies have shown kids aren't as willing to pay for adult porn and are frustrated with the difficulty of finding child porn.
    • Most spammers wouldn't really have an interest in spamming children, so assuming the email addresses largely belong to children, it could have been effective. It'll fall to pieces when (inevitably), people start registering their own addresses as children's addresses.
  • 80% of this has gone to Unspam, the for-profit registry operator; Utah's share of the registry's revenues has been a paltry $37,445. Worse, Utah has spent $100,000 (so far) to defend the private company from legal challenges by free-speech, advertising, and porn interests."

    Conservatives would have us believe that privatization is the solution to all problems. It seems that it's really only a solution to the problem of falling profits.

    • by furball (2853)
      You have that wrong. Conservatives would have you believe that competition is the solution to all problems. One of the ways that you achieve competition is through privatization since the government is terrible at competing with itself. However, privatization that results in one company doing the work on behalf of the state (as the case above), there is no competition. There is no performance difference in a single private organization doing work on behalf of the state and a public organization doing work o
      • You missed something. Without the law, the market for this was ZERO. Forget about 3-6 million.
        • by furball (2853)
          You are incorrect. There are suckers born every minute. The market for anything is never zero as long as suckers are born.
  • Willful ignorance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:27PM (#19012301)
    It's been known for years that e-mail opt-out lists are completely unworkable for controlling spam. None -- absolutely zero -- attempts have ever been successful.

    So Utah legislators decided that they -- and they alone -- would be the ones to implement the very first successful opt-out list.

    It takes willful ignorance to believe that you will succeed where thousands before you have failed. Utah legislators must have deliberately ignored all advice given to them by the technical experts.

    This is not ordinary hubris. This is a special kind of hubris that's infused with a stubborn, childish refusal to educate oneself.
    • This is not ordinary hubris. This is a special kind of hubris that's infused with a stubborn, childish refusal to educate oneself.


      The phrase "unwavering obtuse" comes to mind. Also an old English word, which sounds like a very bad word, so I'll not utter it here.
    • by IO ERROR (128968)
      Michigan has a similar law and a similar list, though I don't think Unspam runs it. I could be wrong about that.
    • by ShaunC (203807) *

      Utah legislators must have deliberately ignored all advice given to them by the technical experts.
      You're making the assumption that the legislature ever sought technical expertise to begin with. So often, the reason these stupid laws come about is that nobody ever bothers to "ask the experts."
    • by KillerCow (213458)

      It's been known for years that e-mail opt-out lists are completely unworkable for controlling spam. None -- absolutely zero -- attempts have ever been successful. So Utah legislators decided that they -- and they alone -- would be the ones to implement the very first successful opt-out list.

      As far as I know, they have all been voluntary. If it's legislated, it becomes compulsory. Compliance is no longer optional, and there are consequences for not complying. If the law is applied everywhere, and enforce

  • by moehoward (668736) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:35PM (#19012353)

    Hey, now. I have "porn interests" and I haven't seen a dime. What gives?
  • by k1e0x (1040314) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:35PM (#19012355) Homepage
    YAY GOVERNMENT!

    Give this project more money THEN it will work. Go government go! Your the solution to every problem! Whoo!

    (Alright so I'm kinda jaded today with our suck ass government and there suck ass programs.)
  • ...but is there something a bit mental about Utah politicians? They seem to crop up in the headlines doing all sorts of demented crap. Do they put lead in the water supply down there?
  • I don't think much spam is aimed at kids any more. Most of the spam I get (after ordinary spam filtering) is either for 1) Viagra, or 2) penny stocks. Neither subject is likely to interest kids much.

    Looking at the last ten spams in the trash:

    1. "???? IS SET TO ROCK YOUR PORTFOLIO!"
    2. "Discount Pharmacy Online"
    3. "Thank you for your loan request, which we recieved (misspelling in original) yesterday."
    4. Repeat of #2.
    5. "???? have released very hot news. Check this out, info and call to your brocker (in orig
    • by Pinckney (1098477)

      I don't think much spam is aimed at kids any more. Most of the spam I get (after ordinary spam filtering) is either for 1) Viagra, or 2) penny stocks. Neither subject is likely to interest kids much.
      I don't think the point was to stop spam from being aimed at kids, but to stop kids from seeing spam targeted at adults (particularly porn).
      • by Animats (122034)

        I'm not even seeing porn spam much any more. It's the same old stock pump and dump scams and that "discount pharmacy" guy, day in and day out, all with random headings. That may be because the upstream spam filters are dropping anything with a link to a known annoyance site, though.

    • by melandy (803088)
      None of these are "harmful to children". They're mostly aimed at adults with room-temperature IQs.

      Is that room-temp in Fahrenheit or Celsius? I assume from context that you're not talking about Kelvin.
  • forgetaboutit (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Valentine had more trouble remembering last summer's conversation about hiring Hatch. "I have no idea," he said. "I don't remember anything about this." House Speaker Greg Curtis also had difficulty recalling the meeting.

    It seems like there are a lot of forgetful minds in the U.S. government. Maybe there needs to be some kind of memorization test before anyone is allowed to work for or with the government. I don't know or recall if they already have one or not. I'm not sure. I don't remember.

  • these types of registries are enacted by dumb politicians who don't know their ass from a hole in the wall when it comes to technology.

    most spammers operate out of foreign nations such as china. They don't give a crap about Utah's registry.

    most spammers don't give a crap about any registries.
    • by dbIII (701233)
      China sells it's domain names cheap but that is not where the servers are - sorry we can't really blame it on them, it just looks like it's leading to China. That said where I am in Australia is within an hours WALK of many of the top 100 named spammers (one famously bought an expensive block of land opposite a very expensive Mormon Temple just over a kilometre away from me) - they have done the same thing.
    • by jonbryce (703250)
      Actually most spammers operate from Florida. Their botnets may be mostly in China, but that's just because that is where most of the internet connected home computers are.
  • 1. Get parents to register the mail addresses of their kids (i.e. THE target group for any kind of marketing).
    2. Sell that list.
    3. Prof...

    What? Oh, can't be used by spammers from the US? Ok. As we all know, it's impossible to get spam from abroad, so it's safe. Damn.
  • I would have been shocked if that idea worked. Making a central list of all children's email addresses must be a pervert's dream come true...
    • by dbIII (701233)
      They just have to make sure it doesn't fall into the hands of someone that thinks fathering children with 13 year old girls is a God given right - just as well it's Utah.

      Bigoted flamebait I know and you get criminals of this sort in a lot of places - just Utah is currently infamous for it internationally. This list would be a bad idea anywhere.

    • by 1u3hr (530656)
      Making a central list of all children's email addresses must be a pervert's dream come true

      Yes, because reading a list of email addresses is so stimulating.

      Do you imagine a "pervert" would randomly send out solicitations? If he did, he'd be on the FBI's watch list within the hour, and arranging "meet ups" that would send him directly to jail.

  • What is it about Utah's bad internet legislative efforts being associated with SCO people?

    From the article [sltrib.com]:

    In August, the Attorney General's Office quietly hired private attorney Brent Hatch, who had been defending Unspam Technologies and its money-making interests in Utah's Child Protection Registry. So far, Hatch has been paid $100,000 - half of what his contract allows, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said.

    Does the name Brent Hatch ring a bell? It should [groklaw.net], he's on the SCO legal team.

    And remember CP80 [cp80.org], the

  • by British (51765) <british1500@gmail.com> on Sunday May 06, 2007 @05:31PM (#19013349) Homepage Journal
    ...a kids registry of "do not kill" requiring child killers to filter out their murder via consulting a list, failed to work.
  • So, is that like abortion spam?
  • WTF is going on? I'd be very interested to know just exactly what is happening here.

    On the one hand we have a Gov't scheme funding a private company - not only to enforce the law, but also one passed specifically to give UnSpam the right to collect ongoing revenues. In my eyes, this is a government sponsored monopoly - ergo a BAD thing.

    Then again, the scheme has failed to give the Gov't the profits they had hoped for. As you shouldn't pass laws simply to generate revenue (unless you are at least honest

  • Initially projected to generate $3-6 million in revenues for Utah, it has instead produced total revenues of less than $200,000.

    Wait a minute, they want to "protect" kid's email addresses by compiling them into a registry and uploading them to a centralized location, where any "Mr. Spam", "Mr. Sex Offender", or "Mr. Homicidal Maniac" can view them (please note the sarcasm)? So they claim that they want to "protect" children, yet their ulterior motive is to generate $3-6 million dollars! This is NOT a "go

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