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21 Jul 2005

Sex spammers fined $1.6 million for not stamping emails as explicit, Sophos reports

US laws dictate that hardcore messages must include an explicit label.

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have welcomed news that five pornography companies have been fined a total of $1.6 million for sending spam which did not include a warning indicating they included sexually explicit content.

Under US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules spammers must include the warning 'SEXUALLY-EXPLICIT: ' in the subject lines of their pornographic emails or face fines. Spammers who do not clearly label their sexually orientated messages are in violation of federal law.

Florida-based Inc. and APC Entertainment Inc. have agreed to pay $650,000 and $220,000 in fines respectively, MD Media of Michigan have been fined $238,743. Two other companies, Pure Marketing Solutions and Internet Matrix Technology, will will pay $50,000 to settle the charges against them.

According to the FTC, the companies have also agreed to allow their operations to be monitored to ensure they comply with the law in future. It has been reported that the companies investigated did not actually send out the messages, but are still liable because they hired third parties to do so on their behalf.

"This is another victory for the authorities against those who bombard email accounts with unwanted and sometimes unsavoury content," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "The FTC guidelines on marking sexually explicit spam are unpopular amongst the spammers, because it makes it easier to identify unsolicited hardcore messages and prevent them from reaching users. Anything which makes life less profitable for spammers has to be good news for all of us."

The FTC's rules follow the controversial CAN-SPAM Act and are designed to protect email recipients from being unwittingly exposed to unwanted sexual images in spam messages. The FTC has also declared that spam messages should not contain sexual images, but can include links to sites which do contain adult content.

The FTC ruling about stamping sexually explicit spam came into effect from 19 May 2004. More details can be found on the FTC's website.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

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