A junk e-mailer said Thursday he had cleaned up his act to comply with a new anti-spam law, but might resort to illegal tactics if his messages continue to be blocked.
Ron Scelson told the Senate Commerce Committee that the 30 million messages he sends out each day from an underground nuclear-fallout shelter contain his mailing address and a method for recipients to opt out of future mailings, as required by a national law that took effect Jan. 1.
But the man known as the “Cajun spammer” said he stood ready to deploy a range of deceptive tactics if large Internet providers like America Online and Microsoft Corp.’s Hotmail continued to block his messages.
“Does the government want us to mail legally or not?” he said. “You passed a law that looks good but doesn’t do a whole lot.”
Scelson said his e-mails promote a range of businesses from eBay opportunities to car warranties, but no pornography, which is a mainstay of many spammers.
Unsolicited bulk e-mail continues to pose a substantial problem for the online world more than five months after the much-ballyhooed Can Spam Act took effect, witnesses said.
Internet providers, technology companies and law enforcers said the new law has helped them go after spammers.
Half of all staffers in the Federal Trade Commission’s marketing-practices division are now investigating spam, FTC Chairman Timothy Muris said, while an FBI official said that agency was currently investigating 50 spammers.
America Online customers are getting fewer spam messages than ever thanks to new software and improved filtering techniques, vice chairman Ted Leonsis said.
But the volume of spam continues to rise, to the point where it now accounts for 83 percent of all e-mail traffic, said Shinya Akamine, president of filtering company Postini Inc.
Many spammers are simply sending out more mail than ever to get around the filters, said Scelson, who sported a Scooby Doo tie and spiky red hair.
Scelson, who said he had to move his family and business after receiving threats last year, said he was trying to play by the rules.
He said he was working to comply with Internet providers’ acceptable-use policies and has signed up for a “whitelist” program that would confiscate up to $25,000 if he sends spam. But many large providers still block his messages outright, he said.
AOL officials said they have blocked Scelson’s messages because they have generated a high number of complaints from customers and often are sent to nonexistent addresses.
Scelson said he had developed new techniques to evade content filters, such as generating fake numerical addresses and blocks of grammatically correct text that look like personally written mail.
“When I’m forced into a situation where I cannot do legal business because other people are interfering with it, I will go back to spam,” he told Reuters after the hearing.