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Virgina Criminalizes spam, ACLU against it 321

Posted by Hemos
from the death-penalty-to-spammers dept.
ibis writes "In ZDNN's article about Virginia's new anti-spam law, it is stated that the American Civil Liberties Union intends to challenge the new law on constitutional grounds. We should all let the ACLU know what we think about this on the ACLU Freedom Network Feedback form. " A little background: Virgina, where AOL is based, has made it so that they will be the first state to be able to *criminally prosecute* "malicious spammers". Not just like the Washington law, which has a fine, this will allow jail times and other such fineries. Bring it on, I say.
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Virgina Criminalizes spam, ACLU against it

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  • Say you find someone that farmed a newsgroup for your email address. Then what, sue them and ask where they got your email? They say, "You sent me this mail that requested my information on the Super Product 2000," and present a nice email, made in Word (they wouldn't be using vi, I'm sure :)).

    It's tough to prove how they got your email. And then you'd have to somehow prove you didn't send that email...
  • To my knowledge, the ACLU has NEVER ONCE been right about ANYTHING!
  • by Micah (278)
    There's one group whose rights the ACLU will NOT stand up for: people that have normal, decent
    moral values.

    Sure, they'll defend your right to stand on the street naked and sing the Star Spangled Banner with your thumb up your butt, but if you want to say that maybe, just maybe, God exists... WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!

  • Well, that whole post was rather clueless. No comment needed.
  • I fully understand and agree with your opinion. That others disagree outright without offering some counterpoints to yours only serves to illustrate how retarded they are. Ignore them out-of-hand; their opinion apparently isn't even worth their _own_ time, since they choose not to defend it.

    - A.P.
    --


    "One World, One Web, One Program" - Microsoft Promotional Ad

  • email address is acluva@aol.com. The point guy is Kent Willis.

    Here's what I sent them:

    Mr. Willis-

    Re: your stance on the soon-to-be-law making spam illegal, I welcome you,
    anytime you're in Charlottesville, to come by and look at our spam logs.
    Spam is the moral equivalent of me standing in YOUR living room with a
    megaphone. Do you have the right to stifle my speech? Yes? Because it's
    your property. This is my network (well, my boss's...I'm just the engineer
    on this choo-choo), so I guess I have the right to stifle a megaphone
    toting idiot in my workplace.
    Perhaps another metaphor...what if I were to stop by your house or office
    and plaster 1000 handbills on the walls. And another guy did it. Then
    another guy. Who cleans it up? That would be you.
    That's what working at an ISP is like on the spam front. It is not free speech. It is theft of services, pure and simple. We have to deal with the bounce messages, the complaints, then more bounces, then more complaints, then...you get the idea. I have no sympathies with the direct marketers who feel their right to make a profit from my time is threatened.
    Ultimately, that is the type of person the ACLU would be sticking up for in this matter. Parasites. Though I suppose they have their place in someone's cosmos.
    This is NOT a civil liberties issue. You have no more right to send 10,000 emails across MY network than I have to drive my car 10,000 times
    through your front yard with a pizza ad on the roof.
    Perhaps you are aware of the fact that we do NOT own our postal boxes?
    The USPO dictates what can and can't go into it. But, I do own my email "box". I pay for/trade for it. Therefore I dictate what can and cannot go
    into it. So what gives bob@selling-crap.com the right to send me and everyone else unwanted email? Is the right to "send" more eminent than the right to refuse? I'd hate to think where that logic would go if extended into the rest of human interaction.
    I trust this little rant finds you healthy and prosperous.
    best,
    jamie

    --------------------------
    Your Favorite OS Sucks.
    ^D

  • Gods know I love the First Amendment, but it's not relevant in this case. Spammers are free to say whatever they want... they're just not free to steal my bandwidth, my CPU time, and my storage space to do it -- not to mention my time. If they want to try selling something on the 'net, they can get a web site like everyone else and use their own bandwidth, CPU time, and storage space for their advertising, and we can all choose for ourselves whether we want to give them our time.

    Incidentally, I think the same logic is applicable to telephone solictors... I'm the one paying for the phone line and service, after all... why should they be allowed to use it without my permission?
  • I don't like this. Such anti-spam laws are *much* too subjective. What is a "malicious spammer"? If I collect a list of email addresses of Slashdot posters and send them a mail advertising my new Linux-oriented site, is that malicious spamming? What if I "spam" slashdot posters with offers for free beta versions of a car mp3 player? I'm sure very few would object to *that* spam, but could I still get thrown in jail for it?
  • would most certainly object to it. Why? If I had a need for what you offer, I would search you out. I most certainly do not want to pay for you to send me unsolicited messages.

    I don't object to targeted messaging like that, especially when it's not asking me to buy something. If somebody wants to give me free stuff, send away.

    If, however, you want to pay my ISP bill every month...I guess I'd suffer through it.

    What does the ISP bill have to do with this? Nearly every ISP nowadays offers unlimited (unmetered) service, so you don't pay your ISP by the minute. Therefore spam isn't increasing your ISP charges. If you live outside of the US in a country without free local calls, I suppose you could have a case for them increasing your phone bill, however.

    Any unsolicited mass internet mailing should be considered malicious. Should you go to jail for it? Probably not. But if you do not bring that as an available sentence...what do you do to repeat offenders?

    Just keep fining the repeat offenders. Increase the fines each time. Perhaps put in a clause to confiscate any assets gained through the spamming in addition to a fine.
  • Posted by Mojoski:

    I just read in an AP story that this law ".. would make it illegal to own software that helps people falsify their on-line identities". Does this mean that Netscape Mail would be illegal cause you can change your identity to a bogus email message? I can kinda see where the ACLU is coming from if the law really says this.
  • Posted by SpikeONE:

    The following is what I sent to the ACLU.
    --
    Virginia's new Anti-Spamming Law - YES

    Tell Mr. Kent Willis that his statement that "there was little evidence that spamming was enough of a problem to justify constraints on free speech on the Internet" is wrong. As a Network Administrator of a multi-million dollar company, I know how much bandwidth and time is wasted by unsolicited e-mail. It seems that Mr. Willis isn't worried (or knowledgeable) about the costs associated with such e-mails.

    Also, his statement that "Expression is protected in the commercial context as well as the noncommercial context, and no one has yet to come up with a valid or compelling state interest in limiting the way e-mail is sent," is wrong. The First Amendment guarantees Freedom of Speech but it does not guarantee that I MUST accept any and all e-mail from people or companies that I do not want to associate with. If I get unwanted or offensive postal mail in my mailbox, I have the right to ask the originator to stop. If they are unwilling to stop then I can ask the Postal Service to step in and make the offender comply with my wishes. Why in the world should e-mail be any different??

    I would DEFINITELY vote "YES" if any legislation similar to this were to, somehow, make it's way onto the California State ballot.
  • Posted by Apocalypse668:

    I beg to differ. Spam is hardly protected under the 1st Amendment; the ACLU itself has acknowledged that junk mail is not protected. What's spam, but electronic junk mail? I'm sorry, but the ACLU is wrong in this respect. I'm a member, but I reserve the right to disagree with anything and everything I see fit. That's what the ACLU is all about, isn't it? The right to disagree and say that you do so?
  • Posted by SpikeONE:

    You are, of course, correct. E-mail is not regulated. So..... I'm stuck. I wish it was (so I and my users don't have to deal with all the garbage that comes across our line) and I'm glad it's not (because I value what little privacy the Internet has left in it). As an earlier message points out, the legislation really prohibits the mailer from using false return addresses. So my rant about First Amendment rights and whatnot doesn't apply. Figures. The hands typeth before the brain thinketh. Cheers.
  • I have no problem with fines. That is a appropriate punishment. But making this a felony is going too far. This is how the prisons get filled up and why violent criminals get released. We arbitrarily declare certain behaviours to be felonious, then we have a situation where a large proportion of the prison population is in there for piddly crap. It's like we're just concatenating this list of of things you can do to get sent to prison for 5 years. Soon we might as well say it 5 years for every offense. See, this is all the politicians know how to do. Whatever happened to making the punishment fit the crime? Why not make first offense spammers go support the network of a big university to "pay" their fine? If they spam again, then send them to jail.

  • For the people above who are equating SPAM with other forms of mass advertising (flyers, junk snail mail, phone calls) there is one key difference. There is a TANGIBLE COST to spam for the receiver and their providers. This cost is usually more per piece than the person sending it is paying! This is why Fax SPAM is illegal, because it costs more to RECEIVE a fax than it does to SEND one. (Paper is not free, especially thermal paper.) There is a FEDERAL LAW against SPAM faxes, why should email be any different?

    This law is not about limiting advertising options or free speech, it's about PROTECTING the bank accounts of anyone who receives SPAM. Personal freedom NOT to be paying for someone else's advertising comes WAY before an advertiser's freedom to advertise with SPAM.

    If there was a way for me to get SPAM without me having to pay for it (ISP charges, per minute connection fees, server space, etc.) that is fine .. but there IS no way for me to get SPAM without incurring one or more of these costs directly and indirectly!

    What if all of your junk mail came POSTAGE DUE and you had no choice but to accept it? What if all your phone solicitors called COLLECT and you could only accept the charges? This is what SPAM is, it's about what it costs the receiving party ... and it is wrong.

    I'm proud that the state I live in has adopted such a harsh stance on this issue. I'll support it 100%
    -----

    Only 28% of slashdot readers use Linux or *nix, while 55% of them use Windows. How ironic.


  • Most of you don't want free speech, you want to have unlimited personal rights and freedoms and to restrict those same rights and priviledges to people you don't like or disagree with.

    Free Speech is only "free" when it does not infringe upon MY rights as a private individual. If you come into my yard at 3AM and start yelling "CAR FOR SALE, CAR FOR SALE" ... I will call the police. They will tell you to stop. If you do not, they take you to jail for disturbing the peace.

    Did they infringe upon your 1st amendment rights? Hell no, and no court in the land would say they did. My rights as a individual OUT WEIGH your right to yell in my face uncontrollably.

    If I were on public property, then I would not be able to stop you directly, I could just leave.

    My inbox is NOT public property and NO ONE has the right to invade it yelling and screaming without me having legal repercussions.

    I support this law 100% especially since I live in Virginia
    -----

    Only 28% of slashdot readers use Linux or *nix, while 55% of them use Windows. How ironic.

  • didn't you give out your email address at some point?

    And isn't your address public record as well? Does that give an advertiser the right to trespass on your property for the sole purpose of putting up a billboard? NO.

    Does the fact that your birth certificate is public record give someone the right to stalk you? NO.

    If you have public phone number where you get faxes, does that make junk faxes legal? NO. The fact that your fax number is on your business card does not negate the fact that it is illegal to cost YOU money to send an advertisement.

    My personal right to communicate should not be snuffed out by a SPAMMER who will troll for my address and then violate my right to personal privacy. Just because I give something out (my email), this does NOT make it public domain!
    -----

    Only 28% of slashdot readers use Linux or *nix, while 55% of them use Windows. How ironic.

  • But free speech, if you really want it, has to come first.

    This is incorrect. In case after case, the court precedence is that PERSONAL RIGHTS come before anyone's constitutional right to badger me.

    Is stalking covered under the 1st amendment, NO.
    Is breaking into a house to paint racial slurs on the walls covered by the 1st amendment, NO.
    Is walking into yard and burning a cross covered by the 1st amendment, NO.

    The key point I'm trying to make is that free speech is only free in public forums, my inbox is NOT a public forum, just as my house and yard are not. When the 1st amendment goes up against personal rights in private situations, the 1st amendment always loses.

    Remember, as Americans, we are granted "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness". This supersedes any amendment made to the constitution when it's regarding a private setting such as my email INBOX.
    -----

    Only 28% of slashdot readers use Linux or *nix, while 55% of them use Windows. How ironic.

  • Your email box is as much a public forum as your mail box and phone are.

    Then why are junk faxes outlawed? I'll tell you why, because there is a DIRECT and TANGIBLE cost to the RECEIVER.

    If my phone was a public forum, why do I have the right to PROSECUTE someone for harassing phone calls? If it's public, you could say what you wanted right? Right. The fact that you CAN'T say whatever you want on MY phone proves right there that it's NOT public.
    -----

    Only 28% of slashdot readers use Linux or *nix, while 55% of them use Windows. How ironic.

  • The law also criminalizes the distribution of software that makes forging email possible. Software like sendmail, for example, while probably not an intended target of the law, would be illegal under it.
  • To honor the first amendment, you have to allow for spam. If you don't like spam, use your first amendment rights and fight back. If every person that got an unwanted spam told the spammer that they would never buy product from said company again, there wouldn't be a problem, and said company would go out of business.

    Yeah that works well. Then they know your e-mail address is active and they will continue to spam it and sell it to other companies.

    Even if I don't pay for it directly in a per unit price plan I pay for it indirectly through my ISP price. The ISP's will need to be able to handle the tremendous amount of spam they will be getting if it because acceptable. It will add additional strain on the internet as a whole also.

    With snail mail I don't pay for my mail box. Every house has one. I don't pay extra if I get a lot of mail. The company sending the stuff DO need to pay to send it so they wont be sending out so much that it breaks the back of the already overstrained U.S. postal system. It cost virtually nothing to spam from the senders point of view. But it can become very costly to ISPs and recipients if the load gets too high.

    Also another thing. Junkmailers are required by law to remove you from their mailing list if you request it. Spammers have no such restriction.

    Later,
    Xamot

  • I get 30-50 spams a day in my "main" account. So I did a couple of things. First, I set up a second account, which I only tell of to friends. Second, I set up rotating e-mail aliases, which I use for newsgroup posting. Every once in a while I change the older of the two aliases and use that new one as my address on newsgroup posting. It's not perfect, but it has cut way down on the spam to the trusted account.

    Note that my e-mail address above is a munged version of the untrusted account. Someday soon it will go the way of the dinosaur.

    P.S. If you munge your account, munge at the highest level -- just before the .com, .net, etc. Otherwise your provider's mailer will still have to deal with all the foo@dontspamme.bar.com e-mail and send out bounce messages.
  • I dislike spam. The folks who do it are cheap hucksters with the morals of a used car salesman. They cost time and money, sometimes big time. We had our mail relay highjacked, and it wasn;t pretty. The only way spam will be reduced is if the laws allow the spammers to get nailed. AND if the law allows the IPS's, etc. to go after the spammers - i.e. cost-effective.

    I know that freedom of speach is an issue here, and the ACLU is right to question this in court, but spammers must be held responsible for their actions. You can't yell fire in a crowded public area and expect to get away with it.

    Free speach is just like any other constitutional right, it carries with it responsibility for what is said, when and how.

    BTW, I take my hat of to the ACLU folks. They piss me off sometimes, but they stick to their stated beliefs, no matter how popular/unpopular their stand is.
  • I have to disagree with the ACLU here. The summary of the law states that spam is defined as (for the purposes of the law):

    1. Unsolicited
    2. commercial
    3. Forged or invalid return address.
    For me, the last item is the key. I see no free speach issues there. All it says is that if you want to mail bomb the world, you'll have to stand up and take the heat for it. To put it another way, you may not convieniantly push your commercial speech off on the world, and then make it inconvieniant for the world to speak back to you.

    Look at your junk snail mail. You will find a return address there which you may use to reply to the commercial speech contained within. In many cases, they even provide a pre addressed and stamped envelope for that purpose.

    Unless there are provisions to the contrary of the summary in the bill, I fail to see the problem.

  • Oh, that's a lovely argument.

    "While it is true that the main problem with people throwing bricks with notes attached to them through living room windows is the commercial people who want to sell us stuff, I can imagine a need for it: say the media are completely owned by large corporate interests which block out what environmental whistle blowers have to say. The only recourse the environmental people might be throwing bricks with notes attached to them through living room windows."

  • You only pay to send it.

    Your ISP has to (either directly in many non-US countries or indirectly in the US) pay for a bigger pipe to handle spam. They will pass those costs directly on to you. And this is not the same as the rumors of LD charges for a call to an ISP. This is simply that only so many bits will fit down an ISPs pipe.

    Spammers don't often provide legitimate return mail methods and often do not remove you from the list.

    This is exactly the same as getting a billboard erected in your front lawn because you gave someone your address.

  • Yes, I'm in a pissy mood right now.

    At least you signed it right.

    Regardless of junk snail mail, someone has to do the sorting. Conveniently, there are laws in place to forbid people from sending you something if you ask to be removed from the list (not so for spam). Usually it's filtered through several people or a very few people do it full time. The cost is far less than negligable.

    failure to remove your name from a list despite your request to do so is different than sending you the mail in the first place. i haven't made any comment about that, moron.
    Yes you did. It's still spam. By not making a statement about it you implicitly included it.
    so, in conclusion, if you think this is "exactly the same" as getting a billboard erected on your front lawn because you gave someone your address, i think (a) you should acquaint yourself with property laws, and (b) i'm glad you're not an elected official.
    Hrm, is it "exactly the same"? No, of course not. Is it an effective analogy? Of course so. If it weren't would you be capable of logically destroying that analogy? I would hope so. The fact you couldn't through 2 replies shows that you are simply trying to assert the analogy into being poor. It don't work that way, boy.

    A billboard being set up on your property does three key things. A) It reduces your property value. B) It reduces your available space on your property. C) It costs you time and money to remove it.

    A) is similar to the ISPs loss of economic power through more servers required, more bandwidth, etc.

    B) is similar because it reduces the available space on your disk quota (you can't ask for a better mapping).

    C) is similar because it impacts you directly by costing you time to download it as well as the potential cost of money to download it for those on metered (either per minute and/or per Mbyte) bandwidth.

    About the only difference is it is quite a bit more expensive to put up a billboard than spam 100,000,000 people.

    That said, the law probably should be struck down because it doesn't target only the right mail.

  • You, sir, are an idiot.

    The ACLU has supported the KKK's (oh, doesn't that hurt) right to free speech when it was done on their own property and in public places.

    Yeah. Always leftist.

  • Hmm, Have you read the bill? I have no use for the right of making unauthorized connections to an online services for the purposes of falsifing addresses. This bill doesn't really do that much; I liked Washington's better.

  • I assume that you did. At any rate I'll start by quoting relavant portions:
    It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to sell, give or otherwise distribute or possess with the intent to sell, give or distribute software which (i) is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of facilitating or enabling the falsification of electronic mail transmission information or other routing information; (ii) has only limited commercially significant purpose or use other than to facilitate or enable the falsification of electronic mail transmission information or other routing information; or (iii) is marketed by that person or another acting in concert with that person with that person's knowledge for use in facilitating or enabling the falsification of electronic mail transmission information or other routing information.
    That said, sendmail clearly does not qualify (unless marketed by the accused or a person acting in concert with the accused, with the accused's knowledge, as a program for address falsification). Mail bombing software is made illegal by this bill, but I don't see a case there, as software has already been ruled unprotected. This bill would then make mail bombing software unprotected speech specifically designed to aid and abet criminal activity, something which I see the ACLU having a hard time defending.
  • extract spammer.email > mailbomb.spammer ???
  • I'm glad the ACLU have the guts to come out and challenge this.

    I hope the challenge fails, or results in only a modified form of the law - but free speech is SO MUCH more important than some annoying email in the linux kernel list.

    If I'm beaten up/tortured by the police, and in an attempt to generate some interest in my case and some funding for my defence, I resort to mass emailing, that seems like an acceptable use of spam to me.

    I think there need to be restrictions on SPAM, especially on the commercial stuff, but formulating the law well will be very, very, hard. By challenging the law, the ACLU will make people think harder, and hopefully result in a better formed piece of legislation.
  • (sung to waltzing matilda - origin, I think the Steve Dahl radio program in Chicago in the late '70's)
    . . .
    marching through Skokie,
    marching through Skokie,
    please come a-marching through Skokie with me,
    and we'll sing and we'll laugh as we wave our little swastikas,
    please come a-marching through Skokie with me.
  • "I hate Illinois Nazis. . ."
    -Jake Blues
  • The ACLU tends to err on the side of free speech. This means that they often end up defending (legally, not morally) unpopular causes such as the right of Nazis and Klansmen to demonstrate.

    The argument that needs to be made, then, is that spamming is not protected speech; it is in fact theft of services (which is already a crime). Because it consumes resources belonging to people who have not agreed to be involved in the spamming -- and who would, if asked, refuse to be involved in spamming -- it amounts to unlawful conversion of those resources.
  • This is also what separates spam from junk mail. Junk mail has to be delivered because the Post Office is a public entity (and, technically, your mailbox is federal property).

    Totally negatory. Bulk mail is delivered because the bulk mailers pay for the privilege. They're consuming Postal Service resources, and they pay for those resources. In fact, the bulk-mail industry effectively subsidizes the rest of the Postal Service's operations, because they actually pay more than the cost of the resources their mail consumes.

    Spammers do not pay for the privilege. Spam takes up disk space on the mail server I administer, and my employer is not compensated for this unauthorized use of our services. This is why spamming is an act of theft-of-services.
  • --for a moment of sanity.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled Libertarian ranting.. (actually, they don't seem to be doing much ranting on this topic. At least I assume not since most of the rants I see are in favor of this law...I'd think one of the few things that I can agree with the Libertarians on is that the ACLU is a Good Thing[tm])

    Daniel
  • I was wondering why we didn't hear more Libertarians cheering on the ACLU. I was looking forward to being able to agree for a change. Figures.

    Daniel (not going to start a 2nd amendment thread. Worse than KDE/GNOME..)
  • All I can say is that I'm proud of the fine state I live in. GO Virginia!!!

  • Limiting the "rights" of vandals to crash and/or fill up mail servers, or thieves to hijack domain names and mail servers to relay spam is not limiting anyone's freedom of speech. Do you have the right to spray paint your opinion on your neighbor's house? Let's look at this crap for what it is: one person's rights STOP when they stomp another's rights.

    -jrm
  • You are just wrong.

    The issue has not one thing to do with free speech or "vague government legislation."

    The government isn't telling anyone that spam is bad--the people are telling the government that spam is bad, and the government is doing its job. The government is there to do the people's bidding, and the majority of users are getting fed up with a tiny number of weasels causing vast grief in the name of "freedom." Majority rules.

    Harassment, vandalism, and theft are all crimes. period. They should be punished up to the point that they stop. If it takes jail time to rid the world of spammers, more power to Virginia. The idea that I should "put up" with someone else's garbage on my computer, or sacrifice my time and energy to some shyster "for the good of free speech" is ridiculous.

    Your right to free speech does not extend into the right to cause harm to OTHERS. There is one hell of a big difference between freedom and chaos.

    And finally, possessing a common item with the potential to cause harm isn't illegal (with perhaps a few exceptions) unless you use it. (and hurt OTHERS) Someone can generate all of the spam s/he wants w/o sending it, and fill up his/her own damned hard drive for all I care. The issue is when that activity causes grief to others.

    The common thread here is OTHERS, a concept spammers should try and comprehend...
  • I dont think this is so much a First Ammendment issue as First Ammendment has been shown to not stand up in many cases, including those of inciting violence or impeding the the fair conduct of business (some that could arguably be applied to spam).

    The real issue is this: ALL you Linux-loving, peace-and-freedom, individualistic, anti-establishment people here have a responsibility to stand up to govt. intervention on principle EVEN when you happen to enjoy the fruits of that particular effort.

    If you let them regulate the definition of spam, and provide legal and financial consequences for it, that is one major roadblock passed for them to control the entire net with legislation (before you jump, I know it takes the enforcement of laws as well, but the threat of idle, normally unenforced laws has always been the more evil form of passive enforcement).

    I say that if we want to claim the Internet is its own society, with its own social contracts and means for dealing with internal problems, then we can let ANY laws such as these get passed, and instead elect to do what we've always promised: be completely self-sufficient and self-regulating... otherwise, guess who will go it for us? And just because you aren't in the US does NOT mean that you shouldnt care.

    I hate spam as much as the next geek, every domain name I register is an invitation to 6 months of UCE, every post here, on usenet, anywhere in public... but Ive dealt with it, and I think in general we are much more capable of doing so than the govt., and won't welcome the day when we have state prisons jammed pack with no-collar Internet "criminals".


    Binary Boy
  • Exactly... I tend to think that any Internet-oriented law will tend to be either dangerously vague, or worthlessly specific. I think, no matter what, a clear policy of jurisdiction and extradition needs to be established if the net is to be governed by a legal body.

    Most of our problems could be solved by better application of technology and not legislation... spam is probably topof the list. Is it too much to ask for simple sender-authentication, for instance, instead of criminalizing a simple exploit?

    Binary Boy
  • Well the Dominoes ads, you ask the post office to stop delivery of junk mail and they have to stop it. I guess.
  • I'm going to wait before I judge this law; I want to see how it's worded (depending on its wording this could be as bad as the CDA, or it could be a Really Good Thing).

    In theory, however, it's good. The ACLU argues that the Constitution grants everyone the right to free speech; in this they're correct. However, the Constitution does not grant anyone the right to take that free speech and forcibly cram it down the throats of two million people who don't want to listen, which is what spam does.
  • if people weren't getting hacked to bits and raped all over the country, maybe this law would make sense because these lawmakers would have nothing else to do. but as it is, they don't even want to put rapists and murderers to death... why fill up jails with spammers???

    "The lie, Mr. Mulder, is most convincingly hidden between two truths."
  • jail time now for "spam", eh?

    gotta side with the aclu on this one, "spam" can be defined in so many ways it's ridiculous.

    I also concur with the post about slashdot effect potentially being affected. if your site causes a "spam" of the toshiba website, I imagine Virginia could confiscate your computers and jail you.

    just another BS law for sake of "protecting" the world from itself.

    don't most emailers come with filter technology now? I get spammed once and once only from site X, I don't need some dumb ass legistator saving me from email I don't want.

    I am amazed to see slashdot come out for this.

    maybe a poll:

    is the slashdot effect = spam?

  • So, Americans will find it illegal to send e-mail to more than x people 8-) I see a marketing opportunity for those of us that are outside that jurisdiction 8-)
  • they'll defend wackos and more wackos, but what about your avg university conservative?

    http://www.salonmag.com/col/ho ro/1998/12/07horo.html [salonmag.com]

    -l
  • I am quite disappointed to hear about your plans to oppose the virginia spam law. I can see why you might see this as a free speech issue, but it most certainly is not. Be aware that there are already laws that charge violators with a $500 per page penalty for sending unauthorized faxes and I think the two situations are analagous. The reason "fax spamming" isn't protected by freedom of speech is because the cost of the speech (paper, ink, busy fax lines) is forced upon the receiver. Spam is precisely like this. Every spam message goes through countless machines on the internet eating up bandwidth and diskspace. This is money, plain and simple. Let me put it another way - would you support telephone soliciting if the calls were collect and the receiver was forced to accept them? The ACLU has done a great many things with regard to freedom of speech (particularly protecting unpopular speech) that I admire but you folks are out of your element here - my guess is that it never occurred to you all that spamming forces a financial burden on people without their permission as I cannot believe you would push forward with this action while in possession of that knowledge.
  • I'm not sure who I agree with. Virginia or the ACLU. Although I hate spammers as much as the next person, this might be a step in the wrong direction.

    The way I see it, public speech needs to be protected no matter what the cost. Even some idiot advertising free porn on the corner of Main and 3rd street, or whatever. But when a spammer sends spam directly to MY mailbox, I consider that an invasion of privacy. The same goes for telephone solicitors. What if you found your e-mail address or phone number posted on a bathroom wall? (USENet groups are pretty close, but they don't count , when we post our e-mail addys to USENET, we are posting to a group of people we generally trust. If someone posted your e-mail address to alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.hamsters, you would most likely get upset.

    So I don't know the correct answer. But I think that spammers are violating our rights, and not just because it shifts the cost onto us. If you're in a public place, and someone is speaking, you can just walk away. If you get an e-mail, you have to either read it or delete it. With deceptive subject headers, usually you can't just filter it all.

    Josh
  • Yes, "unsolicited" covers a lot of ground. But, the bill doesn't criminalize unsolicited mail. :)

    There are 3 things the law criminalizes:

    1. Sending unsolicited *bulk* e-mail in violation of an ISP's policies.

    2. Sending UBE with forged headers.

    3. Distributing spamware.

    The examples you give are highly unlikely to lead to lawsuits under this law, and if they do, they're certain to be laughed out of court. :)

    And yes, bandwidth is "too cheap to meter" on average - but some of us pay a larger share of the bill than others, and some folks (spammers) want everyone else to foot their bill. This helps address that particular inequity. In fact, it'll help keep bandwidth "too cheap to meter" - figures I've seen indicate that of a $19.95/month account, $2-3 a month is necessitated by excess hardware and manpower expenses due to spam.
  • The only time I've ever seen a "remove" phone number that was 1-800, it was an automated system, and the number was at the bottom of... a junk fax. Well, d'uh, folks. I don't see a loophole in the law saying that you don't have to pay the $500 fine if your junk fax has a 1-800 remove number at the bottom... do you? ;)
  • How many time have we heard, on these very pages, the screams of terror at even the smallest infringement on the rights and privileges of free speech, and online speech specifically? How many times?

    The real test of one's devotion to the ideal of constitutionally protected speech (sorry to be US-centric for a moment) is when we must defend free speech even when its purpose, medium, or presentation is not exactly what we'd like.

    If you want free speech, and you want it defended, and you want unpopular ideas to still be legal thoughts in your head and legal words in your mouth, than you must defend constitutionally protected free speech even when it comes in the form of spam.

    There is no test for constitutionally protected free speech that spam infringes on. Mindless loads of commercial email, while not happy, pretty, or nice, are not fighting words, they do not present clear or present danger, they rarely insight real physical violence.

    Most of you don't want free speech, you want to have unlimited personal rights and freedoms and to restrict those same rights and priviledges to people you don't like or disagree with.

    The irony is shocking, and it makes me laugh.


    Andrew Gardner


  • Oh yes it is. Commercial speech is just another form of speech. It might be unpleasant, stupid, ill-informed, and mentally deficient, but than again so are most political commentators whose right to free speech is as real as yours or mine.


    Andrew Gardner
  • Two things.

    Spam doesn't stalk you. It doesn't stand on your lawn at 3am and scream at you. It doesn't walk up behind you and kick you in the head. Those are all physical crimes which are dealt with by other statutes.

    Does spam waste CPU cycles. Yes. Does it waste network bandwidth? Does it bring even the best mail servers to their knees on occaison, why yes it does. But so does porn. And most people in this forum would rather die than see the CDA pass again in any form because you recognize pornography as free speech.

    Isn't it a little maddening that commercial speech is the greater evil here?

    Second, the whole point is that my first amendment rights don't end when I start to make you unconfortable or start to say things that don't make you warm and fuzzy inside. I still have the right to say those things.

    Your inbox is yours. So are your ears. I can say things that make you unhappy, and whether I email them to you or I send snail mail, or I whisper them in your ear, they MAY be protected speech.

    If I email you something that the Supreme Court has set up as speech that is not protected, and the governmental autority under which we live has regulated that speech, then you have legal reprucussions. Otherwise, you don't have any rights that are being infringed on.


    Andrew Gardner
  • If we allow the courts to exercise this kind of leverage over net content, even though it appears to be in 'everyone's favor', what will be regulated next? Porn? Mp3's? Objectionable language? Sexism? Racism? Improper server configuration? Bad spelling? (okay, I'm all for jailing people on the last one!) Each of these is a 'hot spot' on someone's hit-list, but in the end it spells out an attempt to reign in and 'civilize' the anarchy of the web.

    You consider yourselves sophisticated users? And you can't deflect SPAM?

    Shame on you!

    Jail time for SPAM appeals to my childish sense of justice, but bodes ill in the long term for everyone.

    Congratulations to the ACLU (and I'm a republican!) for standing up for what they think is right.
  • You hook up your computer to the 'information highway' by choice. You repel unwanted guests by turning them away at the door.
  • No, wait. Sorry 'bout that. I totally don't.

    Restricting access to YOUR server is YOUR responsibility.

  • There were some very interesting comments here yesterday, but now they're all gone. I looked as far down as threshold -15, but no change.

    Oh well. I'll say it again.

    Eat My Shorts.

    ;)
  • does anyone else notice that this is called virgina??? do you suppose this is intentional or accidental?
  • I'm impressed to see how many /. participants understand that liberties must be defended for all, not just the folks you agree with.

    I'm a proud (card-carrying) member of the ACLU, and while I would love to see a legal (and constitutional) framework to keep spammers out of my mailbox (and for that matter, telemarketers off my telephone), I understand that may not be possible at the same time as preserving a legal climate and culture that promotes the free and open exchange of ideas... Even unpopular or commercial ones.

    Any law involving restriction of speech rights must be subject to a thorough vetting of its constitutionality. If it passes such a test, well and good, but if not, then I'm afraid it was a bad law, and other solutions to the spam problem must be sought.
  • I hate spammers, and instinctively I would really like to just kick their asses (just like I would like to kick the ass of all those people who just sit on left turn signals at stop lights), but really, shouldn't the punishment fit the crime? Aren't we a "civilized" country? Spamming is more akin to harassment, not assualt or theft. If somebody is guilty of harassment, do they face the possibility of jail time?

    --
    Mark Fassler
    fassler at frii dot com
  • After re-reading it, the law does say, "distributing software which makes possible the transmission of false e-mail with the intent to facilitate the transmission of false e-mail." So I guess simply offering sendmail for download wouldn't qualify, unless I also had the intent for people to use it as a spam-engine. So that wouldn't affect your average law-abiding non-spamming citizen.

    I still have reservations about the constitutionality of it and also whether the punishment really fits the crime.

    It's also interesting to note that (as far as I can see) not one single representative voted against it.

    --
    Mark Fassler
    fassler at frii dot com
  • They can make it illegal to falsify headers. Individual sysadmins and companies could (at their discretion) not accept emails with a missing from: header.

    It's constitutional, and it solves most (if not all) spam problems.

    --
    Mark Fassler
    fassler at frii dot com
  • Among other questionable things, this law criminalizes "distributing software which makes possible the transmission of false e-mail."

    http://leg1.s tate.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?ses=991&typ=bil&val =sb881 [state.va.us]

    In other words, your favorite e1eet hackerz site that happens to have a copy of Up Yours or any other mailbombing software is now guilty of a misdemeanor in the state of Virginia and subject to a fine of $1000 for each and every download of that software.

    (One could even argue that sendmail itself, that famous MTA built on trust and cooperation instead of verification and security, is software that fits the above description. The following clause requires that it also have "the intent to facilitate the transmission of false e-mail." Would that mean that anyone offering a downloadable copy of sendmail without the antispam provisions built into recent versions is also liable for $1000 per download?)

    It is possible to write a good law against spam. This is nowhere near that law. This is a brutally overbroad law which criminalizes a wide range of legitimate and proper activity on the net, and the ACLU deserves our thanks for challenging it.

    Jamie McCarthy

  • ....that doesn't allow motorists to carry radar detectors.

    (Gotta give MORE power to the troopers, huh?)

    Brian
  • Actually, you are the one looking foolish, posting a link to the same site all over these comments.

    Brian
  • Yes, taking cars from Drunk Drivers is a good thing (IMO).

    But the New York law allows SUSPECTED drunk drivers to have their cars taken. WITHOUT a trial or conviction. This is a police state.

    Brian
  • Don't call ME an idiot. I did read the comment, how do you think I knew the links were all to the same place? Perhaps efficient, but very redundant and tiresome. Just because someone doesn't agree with yourpost doesn't mean they didn't read it.

    Brian
  • The CDA could have gotten you arrested for making these indecent comments in a public forum. (Well, in theory). The ACLU fought that law so you could have the right to post stupid indecent comments in a public forum.
  • The ACLU does get involved in cases where Christians were discrimentated against. I don't know how many cases they've got involved with where Christians _as Christians_ were being discriminated against.

    Part of the reason probably is limited resources. A Christian can often rely on the donations of thousands of churchs and several groups such as the Rutherford Institute and the Christian Coalition. Why should ACLU spend its limited funds getting involved?
  • ACLU takes on a small fraction of the cases its asked to. Just because they can't carry a case means nothing. The CDA was different because it was a major, blatant case they had to take a stand on.
  • I'm not fully familiar with the postal regs, but putting a false return address on letters is definitely illegal and could constitute forgery or impersonation. Not putting one at all could violate "truth in advertising/labeling" type laws.
  • All they need to do, and I mean all they need to do is FORCE SPAMMERS TO HAVE VALID REPLY-TO ADDRESSES. This is perfectly reasonable, and it would stop spam OVERNIGHT.
    All this other legislation is totally ridiculous.
  • Duh - this IS what they are doing - I hadn't check the bill itself due to it's slashdottedness.

    However, the part about the programs being illegal doesn't seem to make sense ... who cares?
  • I often side with the ACLU on many matters, but I have to disagree with them here. There should be two people put to death: telemarketers and spammers. Period.
    Thank you.
  • What the hell are you talking about? The bulk mailers are PAYING FOR IT. The USPS is MAKING money off of the bulk mail! That would be equiv. to a denial of svc. attack giving MORE bandwidth and CPU time to the person recieving the attack! Hell, in that case fire away!

  • I'd love it if phone solicitors were outlawed!
  • Well crap. There goes my whole argument. In THAT case it is close to the same thing since, if they ARE indeed in debt, we will pay for it in the end through taxes.

    Make those bulk mailers pay!
  • Dammit, what good is a cake if you can't eat it? That seems rather unreasonable to me!

    But seriously, I agree with your point. There are existing federal laws against hackers (Although they are only barbed if you hack a bank or some other money-tracking system. If someone just hacks your home web server, the law is useless.) which can be used against malicious hackers. However, heavy fines are better than jailtime. The government seems way too concerned with taking away people's freedom lately. We are all subject to the Ostrich Effect - throwing people in jail for non-violent acts like spamming is simply the politicians sticking their heads in the sand. Throw them in jail instead of dealing with the problem.

    I personally see it far better for society at large and the environment if we passed laws prohibiting unsolicited physical mail (rlSpam), and allowed only email spam (With regulation on that as well, opt-in rather than opt-out. I think my right to the pursuit of happiness [ie: not having to read spam] overrides some Joe Lamer's "right" to promote some business proposal) instead. Think of how many millions of trees (Probably a lot of rain forest forestation is devoted to this questionable practice) get chopped each year to be turned into crap junk mail.



  • not like anyone will even read my post or anything.
    but i truely wonder why this was posted as if to sound that the aclu is doing something bad?

    besides that id rather know when someone has me in there database when they send me spam...
    i mean atleast then i can take preventaive mesures to stop it from happening again.
    unlike some people who think that you have some form of privacy on the inet... *ha!*
  • Dear ACLU,

    I am a fervent supporter of Constitutional rights and and a supporter of ACLU actions. This letter is to urge you to show restraint in your opposition to laws outlawing unsolicited e-mail, so-called SPAM.

    As a thirty-year software developer and a vigorous user of the Internet, I have first hand knowledge that Spam has become one of the most insidious forms of invasion of privacy. There is not one day in which I don't receive unsolicited e-mail for sex, illegal multilevel marketing schemes, and other questionable ventures. This is in spite of the fact that I do not frequent any locations on the Internet in which this kind of thing is topical. These messages gobble up Internet bandwidth at the cost of every system and every user in which they touch.

    As a very knowledgeable computer user, I have taken the time and effort to attempt to trace some of these messages back to their origin. What I have found out (and this is common knowledge among Internet users) is that the Spammer often uses deception to disguise their origin, their identity and their intentions. Most often, the technique used is "spoofing," which is to construct a bogus e-mail header with the intention of disguising the identity of the guilty party. To make their e-mail look legit they must necessarily target an existing Internet domain. The company or person providing the service for the targeted domain must then somehow deal with the reprocussions of being a target.

    In no other commercial endeavor are advertisements as blatantly dishonest. In no other commercial endeavor would it be tolerated to use another's good name to foist commercial messages on an unwilling public. These practices deserve to be illegal and should be penalized severely.

    AOL, based in Virginia, is a target of many Spammer attacks because their visibility allows the Spammer to remain relatively invisible. That's why Spammers choose the big guys as targets. However, every server on the Net is subject to these attacks. Even my little server on a dial-up line has been attacked. Nobody is immune. Fighting this kind of thing has been costly for me and I have no doubt that it has been very costly to AOL.

    These activities are intolerable to any Internet provider. They have a real cost in handling complaints and for providing the additional security necessary to block the attacks. The state of Virginia, acting on behalf of their citizens and businesses, including America On-Line, has the right to make these kind of activities illegal. But, how does one do this without infringing on the very freedoms which the Internet provides. With this technology we may be treading on new ground here.

    I am not a Constitutional scholar, nor have I read all the arguments for and against the new Virginia Spammer law. However, I would urge you to take a strong position opposing the practice of using the public forum of the Internet as a free-for-all to dishonestly foist strictly commercial messages on the public. In this age of instant Internet communications, one person's right to free speech must be tempered by another's right to privacy and the right not to have any just any transmission crammed down their throats.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment.


    Regards,

    Arne W. Flones

  • Define 'malicious'... There are already laws in place for 'malicious' spammers who attempt 'denial of service' attacks. Besides 'denial of service' problems, how can spammers be differentiated between 'malicious' and 'non-malicious'?

    Too many of you people want your cake and eat it too...
  • What makes them malicious? Just because you don't like the fact that you receive the email?

    Have you tried getting yourself removed from their list?

    I received that same E-mail to only one of my email addresses. I get it maybe once a month. The PORN SPAM I get daily comes to just one address - an AOL address I used in chat rooms. I think I know where they got my email address. My other email addresses, I get very little SPAM (an alternate AOL address has gotten 1 SPAM telling me about some local community involvement group in the last 2 months.) So I ignore it and it doesn't become a problem.
  • By mass-mailing junk mail, I am taking time away from the processing of other 'real' mail. The more Junk mail produced, the more postal employees have to be hired (or time to get my 'real' mail gets longer.) Gee, that sounds similar to a 'denial of service' attack.

    I guess that means you are wrong.
  • I just don't believe that Virginia has the power to do this.

    Yes, they can pass the law, but I don't believe it will be as far-reaching as they would like.

    Virginia will only be able to stop spammers that commit their offence (not including the reply-to in this case, if my understanding is correct) in Virginia itself. Virginia can't come to, say, California, and arrest a spammer whose crime happened to have some effect across the border.

    It should be a national law.

  • Then only outlaws will spam.
  • I'm much more concerned about junk snail mail than easily trashed spam. I don't want to give up any rights to fight this minor annoyance. Further, much of the beauty of the net is it's relative freedom from governmental intervention. It can't stay that way forever but let's not hasten the end of it's "Golden Age".

    -Steve
  • Read the article, sheesh!

    The proposed law defines malicious spamming as any spamming action that causes the victim more than $2500 damage. (i.e., AOL users get mass-spammed, sucking AOL resources... if the cost of handling the spam >$2500, AOL can sue the spammer for punitive damages. Basically.)

    marijane
    --

  • the most glaring being 'war on drugs', that is not
    only violating freedoms, but costs a lot of human
    lifes, not to mention the prolifiration of
    narcotics, as a result of trivial market action
    (the cost of the drugs is inflated by the
    government effort to banish them, which make
    dealing them so profitable). A honorable mention
    would also be cryptography. What about the ban
    to receive certain radio frequncies, like cell
    phones, which are not encrypted in the first place
    because of the desire of CIA,NSA and FBI to be
    able to listen to cell phones at their leisure?
  • ...and then they change their address to something else so that you can't block them. if I weren't so nice (yeah. sure.) I would try to track them down and bomb their list into oblivion...

    Lea
  • well, actually, they are required to remove you if you ask and provide a valid address to do so. whether most of them do or not is a separate issue -- becasue even if they say they do, most of them provide false and broken email addresses and change often so you can't block them for long.

    it's really a pity that a medium with so much promise for commerce, as well as everything else, can be so misused that ANYTHING relating begins to leave a bad taste in people's mouth. spammers are hurting other ecommerce by their example, just as Geocities is hurting other sites that use banners by making them so obnoxious. (think about it -- would you have gotten that banner blocking software just to protest nice unobtrusive ad's like /.? I don't think so. Geocities is one of the many who have gone over the line...)

    *grrr*

    just one of those annoyances in life. guess we all have to deal with it.

    "Little bunny Lea/hopping through the forest/picking up the SPAMMERS/and BASHING them ON THE HEAD"
    (not to mention Geocities)
  • Here is what is made illegal:

    1.using the services of anelectronic mail service provider in contravention of the authority granted by or in violation of the policies set by the electronic mail service provider;
    2.falsifying e-mail transmission information in connection with the transmission of unsolicited bulk e-mail;
    3.selling or distributing software which makes possible the transmission of false e-mail with the intent to facilitate the transmission of false e-mail.

    That is not exactly what is made illegal. That is just the summary. What is in fact made illegal is more precise than that. For example, the new wording which disallows point 1 above is restricted to the case when you are sending unsolicited bulk email.
  • "the problem with standing up for free speech is you end up defending sons-of-bitches" - I don't know who said that, but it applies here.

    I hate spam as much as the next guy, but jail terms for email spamming is more than a little ridiculous. I have to side with the ACLU on this one. If you would rather have government control over mail transfer than do a little exercise with your delete-key finger, you should have your head examined.

  • You get spam from companies????????

    Amazing. All I ever get spam from is:

    Idiots selling vitamins.
    Idiots selling viagra substitutes
    Idiots selling e-mail lists
    Idiots selling horny women
    Idiots selling horny men
    Idiots selling e-mail harvesting programs
    Idiots selling Ponzi schemes

    I never get e-mail from a real company.
  • Law???? Heee Heee that funny!

    The spammers put that on their mail to deflect the stupid people who believe that there is some kind of law that they need to comply with. The smart ones still read the headers, do a traceroute, and complain to every ISP in the chain.

    att.net sucks. Those people cannot control their network. cw.net is the same. Sorry. I had to release pressure from my venom sacs.

  • I hate the ACLU.
  • I don't listen to Rush Limbaugh, actually. I just find it interesting the way the ACLU picks and chooses the laws it challenges.
  • I should probably be a little more clear...

    I don't think this anti-spam law is the right way to go. So I would support the ACLU on this one. Generally though, I don't like them. Specific examples? I'll go with the most controversial one: abortion.

    Disclaimer:

    If you reply, keep in mind that the topic isn't specifically about abortion and Slashdot isn't the place to debate it. Usually each side just becomes further entrenched in their opinions...

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