States Tackle Unsavory E-Mails

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Moving ahead with a program the feds didn't want to touch, Michigan and Utah are will have e-mail registries to protect children from unsavory content.

The ''Child Protection Registry'' is a database containing the e-mail addresses that children use or have access to that will soon be off limits to e-mail senders pitching deals on everything from pornography to gambling to firearms.

That means that in addition to fly-by-night spamming campaigns, legitimate e-mail senders like Wal-Mart, the National Rifle Association (NRA) or even Playboy are going to have to make sure their newsletters don't get into inboxes accessible by minors.

The service is available to both parents and school administrators in Michigan and Utah, the first states in the union to move forward with the registries. Michigan opened its registry to the public July 1 and Utah's went live Friday.

E-mail senders have until next month to ensure their operations take Utah and Michigan into account. Sender compliance in Michigan is effective Aug. 1, while Utah starts enforcing its protected e-mail addresses Aug. 15.

Anne Mitchell, president and CEO of the Institute for Spam and Internet Public Policy (ISIPP), said it doesn't matter what e-mail senders think of the laws in the two states that now make the registries a reality.

It's critical to understand, she said, that this law is not a measure to protect people from spam but an effort by state legislators to keep unwanted material out of the hands of children.

''Their intent was to force online merchants to sort of clean up their act and tow the line in the same way that bricks-and-mortar merchants have had to in terms of their advertising models and whether they target minors,'' Mitchell said.

Under Utah law, an e-mail sent to an address that's been in the registry 30 days is subject to fines between $1,000 and $5,000 for each offense; what's more, the law opens the sender to civil suits from the attorney general's office, ISPs and parents.

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