June 21, 2005, 12:00 AM

Labeling unsolicited commercial e-mail won’t reduce spam, the FTC says

The CAN-Spam Act did little to reduce unsolicited e-mail, and requiring marketers to label advertising e-mails with the ADV designation will help just about as much, says a report just out from the FTC.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

The CAN-Spam Act did little to reduce unsolicited e-mail, and requiring marketers to label advertising e-mails with the ADV designation will help just about as much, says a report just out from the Federal Trade Commission.

The CAN-Spam Act directed the FTC to study whether putting specific characters such as “ADV” in the subject lines of unsolicited commercial e-mail would make it easier for Internet service providers to identify and screen out spam.

In its report, the FTC says that state laws requiring such labeling had failed to reduce spam and that it doubted a federal law would have any impact.

It is “extremely unlikely that outlaw spammers would comply” with such a requirement, while legitimate marketers most likely would abide by the law, the report said. That means that commercial e-mail messages sent out by law-abiding marketers would be filtered out while spam would go straight through to consumers’ e-mail boxes, the FTC says.

Instead of labeling, emphasis should be placed on encouraging the industry to develop alternatives such as e-mail authentication, the FTC says.

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