Posted at Thursday, June 30, 2005 EDT
Michigan, Utah to launch e-mail registries
LANSING, Mich. Two states are on the verge of trying to block porn and other inappropriate messages sent to children through e-mail, but critics question how the laws will be enforced and predict they could have unintended consequences.
Michigan and Utah have until Friday to create and operate registries of e-mail addresses similar to "do-not-call" lists. Businesses will have to buy copies of the registries and face prison time and fines if they send e-mail to any addresses that parents submit. The registries also can include instant-message addresses, cellphones and pager numbers.
Parry Aftab, an Internet safety expert with WiredSafety.org, said the laws were well-intentioned but flawed.
"Anytime anyone starts collecting lists of children, it's subject to hacking and misuse," Aftab said. "The last thing I want is anyone to have a large database of children."
As with other Internet laws, critics say the registries probably won't have much effect largely because anti-spam laws have been difficult to enforce. Spam often originates from outside the country and from other states.
The Institute for Spam and Internet Public Safety, which runs conferences and other programs on e-mail marketing, is concerned that commercial e-mailers don't know about the laws.
"We've talked with several top-tier e-mail marketing firms and e-mail service providers and they were all just stunned to learn that they need to start scrubbing their mailing lists against these registries next month or face criminal sanctions," said Anne Mitchell, the group's president.