Senate Democrats

Schumer, Christian Coalition Team Up To Crack Down On Email Spam Pornography

Christian Coalition endorses Schumer bill that would for the first time impose tough criminal and civil penalties on spammers; New law would create no-spam registry like highly-effective do-not-call registries that have stopped telemarketers

Political odd couple find common ground protecting children from obscene emails

Pornographic pictures appear in 1 out of every 5 spams; 1 in 5 kids are sexually solicited on the Internet; and 1 in 4 had an unwanted exposure to obscene pictures

US Senator Charles Schumer and Christian Coalition President Roberta Combs announced today that the Christian Coalition is endorsing Schumer’s Stop Pornography and Abusive Marketing Act (The SPAM Act), legislation aimed at cracking down on pornographic email spam that is sent to children. Internet and email use among children has skyrocketed over the last few years, with America Online and MSN reporting millions of child users.

“The avalanche of pornography being sent to kids by spammers makes checking email on par with watching an X-rated movie. Parents need to be able to keep offensive material out of the family room and I’m working with the Christian Coalition to do just that,” Schumer said. “The bottom line is that America’s children have been under attack for a long time – from violent TV shows, racy music videos, and now pornographic spam. The v-chip gave parents control of the TV. My SPAM Act will give them control over the computer.”

“I stand side-by-side with Senator Schumer in the fight against pornographic email,” Combs said. “Parents need the ability to keep their children from being subjected to lewd material and Schumer’s legislation will do just that. I am proud to stand with Chuck on this issue and we will continue to work together until this bill is law.”

Purveyors of spam have exploited the popularity of the Internet and e-mail to gain access to millions of consumers from all sectors of the population, advertising everything from herbal remedies to get-rich-quick schemes to adult web sites. The traffic in explicit images is particularly acute according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which reports that pornographic pictures appear in almost one out of every five emails that spammers use to advertise adult web sites. Many of these explicit images reach the in-boxes of millions of young e-mail users.

In a June 2003 survey by the California-based Internet security firm Symantec, 47% of children reported receiving junk email with links to pornographic web sites. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one in five kids between the ages of 10 and 17 are sexually solicited on the Internet, and one in four had an unwanted exposure to pictures of naked people or people having sex – but only 40% of these children told a parent.

According to a 2001 Department of Commerce study, 75 percent of 14-17 year olds and 65 percent of 10-13 year olds use the Internet. The same survey also found that forty-five percent of the population now uses email, up from 35 percent in 2000, including millions of children. As of November 2002, America Online had 16 million screen names limited by parental controls while MSN, the operator of the popular free e-mail site, had an estimated 3.6 million subscribers under the age of 18.

Schumer and Combs said that the implications of these studies are disturbing: parents are not only powerless to prevent such imagery from being sent to their children’s in-boxes, they also often do not know about it in the first place. As a result, parents are unable to take the necessary steps to keep their children from being exposed to these kinds of materials and have an even harder time playing a meaningful role in the lives of their children.

Schumer’s legislation would establish costly fines for spamming activity, mandate jail time for repeat offenders, and create a “Do-Not-Spam” list of e-mail addresses similar to the FTC’s new “Do-Not-Call” registry that has succeeded in a number of states in virtually eliminating unwanted telemarketing calls. The bill would also make it a crime to harvest e-mail addresses, eliminating the most common technique spammers use to compile address lists. It would require commercial email to be labeled with “ADV” to permit filtering and institute other anti-fraud measures that would help email filters separate spam from personal or business-related email and clamp down on deceptive information that the FTC estimates is present in 66% of all junk e-mail.

“My bill fights spam email on two fronts – it gives parents the ability to regulate the email sent to their kids and gives law enforcement the ability to go after those spammers that send this unwanted material out,” Schumer said. “I’m grateful for the unfailing support the Christian Coalition has given my plan. President Combs and I have sat down and positively discussed the urgent need to curb email spam. I know she will be a strong ally in getting this bill enacted into law.”