XBiz News: 08-21-03

Stephen Yagielowicz

This installment of the XBiz Industry News takes a look at a landmark library porn suit settlement, ‘healthy’ spam on the rise, and the FTC’s opposition to Congress’ newly proposed anti-spam legislation...

A Library Porn Suit Settlement
The Minneapolis public library system, in a legal settlement that could have serious implications for libraries everywhere, will pay nearly $500,000 to a dozen librarians who were so offended over their patron’s ability to surf and download pornography, that they brought suit against the library for ‘creating a hostile work environment.’

“This is wonderful news. We've been telling librarians and the American Library Association for years that they were going to end up on the wrong end of a lawsuit like this, and lose lots of money.” Said Jan LaRue, chief counsel and legal studies director at Concerned Women for America.

A provision of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires that libraries receiving federal funds must install Internet content filtering systems. These censorship mechanisms must also be implemented in such a way as to be easily deactivated upon an adult patron’s request, ostensibly to allow for unfettered online access to support legitimate research. It is this lawful deactivation of the filters (filters, which most librarians condemn), that is being opposed by a minority of library workers who are using workplace laws to subvert the Congressional mandate allowing adults free access to online materials.

“Libraries need to be aware that if they are allowing patrons to regularly access pornography, they could be creating a hostile work environment and this could end up costing a lot of money,” said David Burt, an employee of filter vendor N2H2, adding that “I would think this would make libraries more cautious about when to disable the filtering.”

‘Healthy’ Spam A Chart Topper
As porn related spam continues to decline, Healthcare and gambling related spam is seeing a dramatic upswing in volume, according to the monthly Clearswift ‘Spam Index’ survey analyzing the amount and type of spam that is received by the company’s 16 million global users.

According to the most recent survey, healthcare related spam, which includes offers for products such as Viagra, increased to 25.8% of the total spam received in July – up sharply from the 18% reported in June. Finance related spam came in second at 20.8%, direct product sales claimed 18.2%, porn was a mild 15.2% compared to its 22% share the previous month, while gambling related spam rose to 7.2%, up from a reported 5% in June. The increase in gambling spam is seen by Clearswift as a result of a growing online gambling industry and the changing legislative environment surrounding it.

The survey also notes consumer’s varying attitudes towards unsolicited mailings based on their content, with porn spam being typically seen as unsavory, while financial offerings and directly marketed products (although accounting for an enormous proportion of spam), are often seen as legitimate direct marketing offers by established companies. When Congress resumes session in September, lawmakers will begin considering eight separate pieces of legislation designed to help consumers eliminate spam from their inboxes...

FTC Opposes Anti-Spam Legislation
In a speech held Tuesday at the Aspen Summit in Aspen, Colorado, FTC chairman Tim Muris commented on the anti-spam laws being considered by Congress, opining that the proposed laws “could be harmful, or at best, useless,” adding that “In the end, legislation cannot do much to solve the spam problem, because it can only make a limited contribution to the crucial problems of anonymity and cost shifting.”

When Congress resumes session in September, lawmakers will begin considering eight separate pieces of legislation designed to help consumers eliminate spam from their inboxes, including a proposal by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Mark Dayton (D-MN), to establish a “Do Not Spam” list similar to the recently enacted “Do Not Call” list barring most telemarketers from calling numbers entered on the list. Commenting on Schumer’s proposed “Do Not Spam” list, Muris said that “If it were established, my advice to consumers would be: Don’t waste the time and effort to sign up.”

“Unfortunately, the legislative debate seems to be veering off on the wrong track, exploring largely ineffective solutions,” said Muris, adding that the “Proposals in both the House and the Senate require us to prove knowledge to bring an action against a seller that hires a spammer.” Since proving such awareness might be almost impossible, Muris wondered why such legislation was being considered: “I do not know why the proposals seek to make it so hard for us to prosecute problematic spam.”

“It is not apparent that any regulatory solution exists for spam. Spam is one of the most daunting consumer protection problems that the Commission has ever faced. Parts of these proposals can help, but no one should expect any new law to make a substantial difference by itself,” According to Muris.

While most proposals being considered would impose new criminal and civil penalties on spammers, they would only allow Internet Service Providers, and not individual consumers, to sue spammers, further limiting the effectiveness of any new legislation.

Stay tuned for more news here at, The Industry Source ~ Stephen