Federal Communications Law Journal

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Citation

57 Federal Communications Law Journal 129 (2004)


Junk email, commonly referred to as "spam," is the current scourge of the Internet. In late 2004, unwanted email messages were being delivered at a rate of 12.4 billion per day. The variety of tools used to combat spam have failed to make a significant impact. Legislative efforts, such as the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, met with substantial enforcement complications. The communications industry responded with a variety of technical advances, such as filters and blacklists, but those innovations are still unable to reliably distinguish between wanted and unwanted messages. Real coordination between legislative and technical spam control tactics has yet to happen, and it has been suggested that the consensus necessary to support such coordination is not available. This Note explains how spammers operate and suggests that failure to effectively combat spam may drive email users to other means of electronic communication. A short history of legal and technical responses to the spam problem is presented, including a look at how the First Amendment affects the effort to reduce spam. Authentication-based systems of regulating spam, proposed by private industry, are then examined in detail. This Note suggests alterations of those systems, allowing for greater First Amendment protection for message senders and greater individual control over receipt of messages. Finally, this Note concludes by arguing that an architectural framework based on these authentication systems would effectively enable legislators and the Internet industry to work together to reduce spare, backed by the support of an Internet community eager for the end of unwanted email messages.