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July 20, 2005

FTC Sues Seven Companies Over Porn Spam

Courtesy of TechWeb News

The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday said it has filed lawsuits against seven companies for allegedly sending X-rated spam without the required warning meant to protect children and consumers from unwanted pornography.

Four of the companies had already settled with FTC, agreeing to pay a total of $1.2 million in civil penalties. The settlements also bar the companies from sending unlabelled porn spam in the future and requires them to monitor affiliates to ensure that they are also in compliance with federal laws, the agency said.

The FTC's Adult Labeling Rule and federal CAN-SPAM Act require commercial e-mailers of sexually-explicit material to use the phrase "sexually explicit" in the subject line and to ensure that the initially viewable area of the message does not contain sexually graphic images. The e-mailers also are required to give consumers the opportunity to opt out of receiving future e-mails.

The rule and law were designed to protect consumers and children from exposure to "random assaults of sexual material," Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement.

"This x-rated e-mail is electronic flashing," Parnes said. "It exposes kids and other unwary consumers to graphic sexual content, and it is unwanted, offensive, and illegal."

Defendants that have not reached settlements with the FTC include TJ Web Productions LLC of Nevada, Cyberheat Inc., Arizona; and Impulse Media, Washington.

Settlements were reached with Inc., Florida; MD Media, Michigan; APC Entertainment Inc. and Pure Marketing Solutions LLC, both of Florida; Internet Matrix Technology, Louisiana.

Microsoft Corp. provided technical assistance in the investigation, the FTC said.

The agency supplied the Redmond, Wash., company with a list of domains associated with pornographic messages, a company spokeswoman said. Microsoft analyzed the domain names against the millions of spam the company collects in the fake web mail accounts it uses to trap spam.

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