Home / Blogs

ACLU, Anti-Spam Laws, and the First Amendment

J.D. Falk

In an article published by the Technology Liberation Front, Cato Institute adjunct scholar Tim Lee dissects a recent argument by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) regarding free speech & anti-spam laws.

It's been interesting to watch the ACLU wrestle with anti-spam legislation. Their entire purpose is to work through the legal system to protect our civil rights, as defined in the First Amendment — which is why I've been a card-carrying member since before I was old enough to vote — so of course they're going to push back against any perceived abridgment of the right to free speech, including anonymous speech. Yet as Tim Lee argues, the amount of speech afforded to spammers before they run afoul of the Virginia statue is enormous: "someone may (a) send out an unlimited number of emails using a real email address, (b) send out 9999 emails per day (99,999 per month, 999,999 per year) while falsifying email headers, or (c) send out an unlimited number of emails with falsified addresses to people who have previously consented to receive them."

In order to violate this Virginia statute, you have to be very bad. In order to violate CAN-SPAM and get even more federal attention, you have to be even worse. Anyone with a real need for free, anonymous speech will have a myriad of other, simpler, and very likely cheaper avenues available to them — including, unfortunately, sending 9999 forged, unsolicited emails each & every day.

This article was originally written for & published by the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email

By J.D. Falk, Internet Standards and Governance
Follow CircleID on
Related topics: Email, Law, Policy & Regulation, Spam
SHARE THIS POST

If you are pressed for time ...

... this is for you. More and more professionals are choosing to publish critical posts on CircleID from all corners of the Internet industry. If you find it hard to keep up daily, consider subscribing to our weekly digest. We will provide you a convenient summary report once a week sent directly to your inbox. It's a quick and easy read.

I make a point of reading CircleID. There is no getting around the utility of knowing what thoughtful people are thinking and saying about our industry.

Vinton Cerf, Co-designer of the TCP/IP Protocols & the Architecture of the Internet

Share your comments

Commercial speech traditionally has far less protections than free speech Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Aug 09, 2008 7:59 AM PDT

All due respect to the ACLU - but yes, someone needs to point out to them that:

The FTC prosecuting can-spam infringements, the DoJ / FBI going after fraudulent or criminal spams - or the various state antispam laws under which spammers can be prosecuted primarily target commercial and/or fraudulent speech. 

Neither of which has much 1st amendment protection.

As for the non commercial free speech that's sent as unsolicited bulk email, ISP spamfilters are quite capable of blocking it, based on their users voting that they havent asked for such speech (the this is spam button etc). 

CAN-SPAM certainly doesn't bar ISPs from taking good faith action to block spam.

To post comments, please login or create an account.

Related

Topics

Cybercrime

Sponsored byThreat Intelligence Platform

New TLDs

Sponsored byAfilias

Whois

Sponsored byWhoisXML API

IP Addressing

Sponsored byAvenue4 LLC

DNS Security

Sponsored byAfilias

Domain Names

Sponsored byVerisign

Cybersecurity

Sponsored byVerisign