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Next Friday, May 2, I’ll be in Washington participating in a Federal Trade Commission public forum to explore the issues regarding the proliferation of and potential solutions to unsolicited commercial email (“UCE” or “spam”). The forum will also look at how the unique qualities of spam contribute to and hinder both fraud and its prosecution. The panel I hope to contribute on is entitled “Federal and State Legislation”. This is an unlikely place for me to participate but I will be the voice arguing that legislation is *not* the right answer.

Spam is an enormous and growing problem, as I have been writing here in the weblog for a long time. We need a solution but I continue to believe that legislation can’t work. Much of the spam comes from places that don’t really care about U.S. laws. More importantly, it is not possible to define spam specifically enough to be able to make a law that would work. The answer is technology and the good news is that venture capitalists and the technology whizzes of the world are engaged. Startup companies are focused on spam elimination as a significant business opportunity. Computer scientists are energized by the challenge. The IETF has formed a research group (IRTF) called the Anti-Spam Research Group (ASRG) to come up with creative and profound changes in the way email works at the core. I am optimistic.

Note: other members of the panel I will be participating on include…

  1. Moderator, Eileen Harrington, Associate Director, Division of Marketing Practices, FTC
  2. Jerry Cerasale, Senior Vice President, Direct Marketing Association
  3. Ray Everett-Church, Counsel, Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email
  4. David H. Kramer, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
  5. Charles Curran, Assistant General Counsel, America Online, Inc.
  6. John R. Patrick, Chairman, Global Internet Project
  7. Steve Richter, General Counsel, Email Marketing Association
  8. Paula Selis, Senior Counsel, Washington State Attorney General’s Office
  9. David E. Sorkin, Associate Professor of Law, The John Marshall Law School
  • “Bills may turn up heat on spammers”, by Mark Langlois of The Danbury News-Times (*)
  • Full Agenda for the FTC Spam Forum

(*) – update July 10, 2013 – the link to this article is no longer available.