FTC cracks down on email smut barons

Bang to rights

The US Federal Trade Commission last week launched a crack down on xxx-rated spam with legal action against seven firms that have allegedly flouted laws requiring warning labels on smutty emails. Four of the seven companies agreed to pay a total of $1.159m in penalties and to abide by federal rules requiring warning labels on emails with sexually-explicit content and the US federal CAN-SPAM Act.

BangBros.com of Florida will pay $650,000 in civil penalties; Michigan-base MD Media will pay $239,000; APC Entertainment of Florida will shell out $220,000 and Pure Marketing Solutions of Florida and Internet Matrix Technology of Louisiana will together fork out $50,000.

Three other operations are fighting lawsuits, initiated by the FTC, which seek the imposition of civil penalties and a permanent bar on their allegedly illegal marketing activities. The defendants (TJ Web Productions of Nevada; Cyberheat of Arizona and Impulse Media of Washington) are accused of running "affiliate marketing" programs in which they paid others to send spam on their behalf rather than doing the dirty dead themselves. That still makes them liable under the CAN-SPAM Act.

Firms sending racy emails without appropriate warnings have activists all steamed up. "This x-rated e-mail is electronic flashing," said Lydia Parnes, director of the bureau of consumer protection. "It exposes kids and other unwary consumers to graphic sexual content, and it is unwanted, offensive, and illegal."

The FTC’s Adult Labeling Rule and the related US Federal CAN-SPAM Act require bulk mailers of sexually-explicit material to use the phrase "SEXUALLY EXPLICIT: " in the subject line of the email message and to ensure that the initially viewable area of the message does not contain graphic sexual images. Consumers also need to be offered the opportunity to opt-out of receiving further emails, another frequent shortcoming of the firms targeted for legal action. ®

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