Transcript: Anti-spam company chief exec who disagrees with the FTC and wants a do-not-spam list.
Transcript: Howard Beales, head of the FTC's consumer protection division, explaining the commission's decision.
Transcript: Direct Marketing Association lobbyist who agrees with the FTC and opposes the do-not-spam list.
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By Jonathan Krim Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 16, 2004; Page A01
The Federal Trade Commission yesterday rejected as unworkable a do-not-spam list to stop unwanted e-mail, despite the popularity and success of a similar registry for consumers who don't want telephone sales pitches.
After studying the issue for months, agency Chairman Timothy J. Muris said a do-not-spam list would be "a waste of time" because spammers would ignore it.
More dangerous, he said, was the possibility that spammers might get hold of the list, which would provide them with a gold mine of valid e-mail addresses that would be used for more spam.
"Consumers will be spammed if we do a registry and spammed if we don't," said Muris, who has long opposed the idea.
The report, which was endorsed by all five FTC commissioners, was required by Congress as part of a national anti-spam law passed late last year.
Instead of starting a registry, Muris said, the FTC would first push the private sector to agree on a method for electronically authenticating senders of e-mail, which would cut down on spammers' ability to hide their identities and locations. Muris said such authentication is a necessary precursor to any no-spam registry.
The major Internet e-mail providers, including Microsoft Corp., America Online Inc., Yahoo Inc. and EarthLink Inc., also oppose the registry and have been working on a unified approach to authentication for several months. The companies are hoping to announce a formal agreement soon.
But the FTC report was denounced by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who last year urged Congress to require a registry. After his proposal failed to win broad congressional support, he pushed for the FTC study instead.
"We are very disappointed that the FTC is refusing to move forward on the do not email registry," Schumer said in a written statement. "The registry is not the perfect solution but it is the best solution we have to the growing problem of spam and we will pursue congressional alternatives in light of the FTC's adamancy."
As for the agency's concerns that the list would not work, Schumer said, the FTC had for years balked at a do-not-call list, "but when they finally implemented it, it was an overwhelming success."