April 30, 2003, 12:00 AM

As FTC opens spam hearings, AOL reports blocking 2.4 billion messages a day

The Federal Trade Commission began its first-ever public conference on spam this week. To coincide with the conference, AOL reported blocking 2.37 billion e-mail messages in one day.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

In less than two months since it reported blocking 1 billion e-mail spam messages in a single day, America Online Inc. reported today that it blocked more than double that amount, or 2.37 billion, in a single day this week. The news comes as the Federal Trade Commission, which begins its first-ever public conference on spam this week, released its own alarming data on spam and fraudulent Internet commerce.

AOL noted that it is now blocking about 67 spam e-mail messages per e-mail subscriber account per day, at a rate that would result in 24,000 spam e-mail messages per account per year. Looked at another way, it said it now blocks 70-80% of all inbound e-mail.

The FTC, meanwhile, said 66% of unsolicited commercial e-mail messages in a random sample of 1,000 messages contained false information in "from" or "subject" headings or message text. It noted that the highest incidence of false information, or 20%, was found in messages related to the category of investment/business opportunity. 55% of messages with false information were related to investment/business opportunity, adult, and finance categories.

The FTC based its study on e-mail messages in official FTC inboxes as well as in two e-mail databases it maintains. Its UCE (for unsolicited commercial e-mail messages) Database gathers about 130,000 spam messages a day forwarded by members of the public, and its Harvest Database consists of more than 3,000 spam messages received by covert FTC e-mail addresses that the FTC uses to gather e-mail messages through chat rooms, message boards and other public areas.

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