Thursday, 29 January 2004
FTC proposes adult-content label for spam
Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) made its first proposal for a mandatory label for "adult" spam. (Via C|Net) The CAN-SPAM Act requires the FTC to pass a rule by the end of March establishing such a label for sexually-explicit spam. The FTC is now seeking public comment on its label, and the comment period will end on 17 February. What label did the FTC propose? "SEXUALLY-EXPLICIT-CONTENT:."
At first glance, this character string seems to be long enough and specific enough that the unwary are unlikely to trigger it accidentally and have their (presumably legitimate) email filtered out of recipients' inboxes. However, the law of large numbers guarantees that someone, somewhere, will trigger this by accident.
Furthermore, the Act requires that this label be the first thing the user sees when he opens the email — before he sees any of the labelled content. The purpose, of course, is to protect children from "adult" content. Unfortunately, I can think of few labels that would more quickly attract the attention of every minor I know.
I would prefer a label containing a long string of randomly-generated characters that could never be confused with the email's real content — i.e., a string of a thousand or more characters that might resemble a PGP key. True, this solves only the first problem. It would become familiar to porn-seeking children everywhere soon enough. I doubt there is any way to prevent that.