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Maryland governor signs tough anti-spam law

Internet spammers could face up to 10 years in jail and fines of $25,000 per day under a new state law signed Wednesday by Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich.
/ Source: Reuters

Internet "spam" purveyors who hide behind false e-mail addresses could face up to 10 years in jail and fines of $25,000 per day under a new state law signed Wednesday by Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich.

The Maryland Spam Deterrence Act allows state officials to arrest and fine those who engage in a variety of deceptive tactics to send junk e-mail.

The law was hailed as the nation's toughest by Internet provider America Online, which has helped officials in other states track down spammers who send out fraudulent messages.

But one anti-spam activist said it would do little to stop the unsolicited bulk messages that now account for up to 83 percent of all e-mail, because most of those already violate anti-fraud laws.

"What's the point of passing a second set of laws against fraud? Is it extra, doubly illegal?" said Andrew Barrett, executive director of the anti-spam watchdog group Spamcon.

A previous Maryland law allowed consumers to sue spammers directly, but it was voided by the national Can Spam Act, which took effect in January.

The new state law extends the Can Spam Act by allowing state officials to join the fight.

E-mail marketers who use fake names to set up e-mail accounts or steer their messages through others' computers to cover their tracks could face fines, jail time and the loss of personal property.

In neighboring Virginia, law-enforcement officials have used a similar state law to arrest e-mail marketers in other states.

An AOL spokesman said Maryland's new law would help reign in the largest spammers who inundate the Internet provider with billions of messages daily.

"When it comes to state laws on spam, Maryland is now at the forefront in terms of tough laws with teeth and has now become a model for other states to follow," AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said in a statement.