2005-05-14 at 11:07:00 am #9493
Politically toner-deafMay, 2005
An unspecified multimillion-dollar concern wants to speak with you
immediately about a potential merger.
If that doesn’t tempt you, maybe you’d like to take part in a “confidential
business relationship” involving the transfer of $13.5 million. If so, a Dr.
J.E. Tutu of Cape Town, South Africa, would like a word with you. Just give him
(or her) your bank account information, because the “business itself is 100%
If you work at any business larger than a lemonade stand, you’ve probably
seen these offers coming over the fax machine. Sure, Congress banned such
unsolicited faxes in 1992, because they can cost recipients a nickel or more per
page. And in a just world, the rise of unsolicited bulk e-mail would at least
have killed off the junk fax.
If anything, though, the spam phenomenon has inspired some junk mailers to
take a second look at faxes. Congress is now considering further legislation on
the issue. But just like the federal anti-spam law that took effect last year,
the so-called Junk Fax Prevention Act could end up exacerbating the problem it
was supposed to solve.
The spam law puts the burden on e-mail recipients to opt out of bulk
messages, but people who do so are outing their e-mail addresses as live ones —
thereby inviting more spam. In a similar vein, junk faxes would still be illegal
under the proposed law. But it would be up to the recipient to tell the senders
of unwanted faxes to quit it.
In truth, no legislation will completely be effective against the onslaught
of spam and junk faxes. Technological advances have brought down the costs of
sending unsolicited commercial messages — and made it easier to do so from
places beyond the reach of U.S. law.
Federal legislation still has a role in cutting down on junk faxes, but
members of Congress need to be careful not to make the situation worse.