AOL Endorses Jail for Spammers in Maryland

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AOL threw its weight behind a proposed law in Maryland yesterday that would send commercial e-mailers using fraudulent tactics to jail for up to five years.


AOL backed the legislation, the Maryland Spam Control Act, introduced in the Maryland Assembly last month. It resembles spam laws enacted in Virginia last April and introduced in Ohio in January, both of which were pushed by AOL.


The Maryland legislation stipulates that a person who uses deception to disguise the origin of messages or signs up for more than five e-mail accounts with false information to send commercial e-mail can be prosecuted for a misdemeanor.


The legislation, which can apply to senders of as few as 11 commercial e-mail messages in a 24-hour period, defines deception as altering an e-mail header or other routing information. Those convicted are liable for a prison term of up to five years, as much as $10,000 in fines and seizure of assets and proceeds from the mailings. The state attorney general is also empowered to bring civil charges against violators.


The federal CAN-SPAM Act overrides state spam laws, except for stiffer laws dealing with fraud.


Virginia's spam law was used in December to arrest two North Carolina men, including one on the Spamhaus list of the world's alleged top spammers. They were charged with felonies, accused of using fraudulent means to send bulk e-mail messages. AOL assisted the Virginia attorney general's office in the investigation.


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