FTC Proposes Adult Spam Labels

If the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) gets its way, all sexually oriented email will have to carry a required subject line of “Sexually-Explicit Content.”

The proposal, put forth by the FTC this week, is a result of the Can Spam Act passed by Congress last year. It mandates the FTC create a label to facilitate filtering of adult-oriented messages.

According to FTC, a notice will be published shortly in the Federal Register seeking comment on the required adult label with the response period ending on Feb. 17.

“The proposed rule also would follow the intention of the CAN-SPAM Act to protect consumers from unwitting exposure to pornographic images in spam, by requiring this mark to be included both in the subject line of any email message that contains sexually oriented material, and in the electronic equivalent of a ‘brown paper wrapper’ in the body of the message,” the FTC stated in a release. “This ‘brown paper wrapper’ would be what a recipient would initially see when opening a message containing sexually oriented material.”

The FTC said the “Sexually-Explicit Content” email will “include the prescribed mark or notice, certain other specified information, and no other information or images.”

Developing the sexually explicit label is one of several directives given to the FTC by the Can Spam Act. The agency must also produce a report on possible mandated subject line labeling, such as ADV for advertising. The Can Spam Act requires unsolicited commercial email to carry information identifying it as an advertisement or solicitation but does not mandate any specific language.

The FTC must also develop a national do-not-spam list similar to its popular do-not-call registry. The agency has six months to come up with a plan for creating the email registry or else explain to Congress why the creation of such a list is not currently feasible.

Last year, the FTC testified at Senate hearings on the legislation that a do-not-spam list raises significant technical, security and privacy questions that would need to be resolved before such a list could be implemented.

The agency also has nine months to draft suggestions for the implementation of a system to grant a reward of not less than 20 percent of the total civil penalty for the first person to report the identity of a false header source, a bounty plan supported by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).

Wireless spam is also covered by the bill with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in coordination with the FTC, required to promulgate rules within nine months to shield consumers from “unwanted mobile service commercial messages.”

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