While no federal legislation currently exists that outlaws unregulated spam from entering the average e-mail browser, a two-part national survey of office workers and IT professionals found that people are starting to get fed up with the continuous onslaught of junk e-mail and are strongly urging Congress to act.
Some reports suggest that a quarter of all e-mail that finds its way into corporate inboxes is spam.
While members of Congress and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) struggle to develop federal proposals that will manage and regulate spam e-mail, Washington, D.C.-based polling firm Public Opinion Strategies conducted a national survey that found that 9 out of 10 respondents called for stiffer regulations on what is considered a scourge on their professional work time.
The survey was conducted in December of 2002 and then again in January of 2003, and was commissioned by Scotts Valley, Calif.-based SurfControl, a Web and e-mail filtering company.
That same percentage of pollsters said they would support legislation that restricts pornographic spam, and that criminal penalties for spam that contains misleading or false information should be enacted.
The survey also found that 68 percent of those polled who use a computer at work to retrieve e-mail believed that legislation alone would not solve the problem and that lawmakers needed to supplement their efforts with technology in order to eliminate spam in the workplace.
According to Public Opinion Strategies, support for pending anti-spam legislation among its respondents had very little to do with the volume of spam each respective pollster received on a daily or moment-to-moment basis, and that the overwhelming consensus was that office workers want Congress to "can the spam.'
Only 56 percent of those workers surveyed said that their companies used anti-spam filtering systems to control the problem.
"American businesses are ready for Congress to act against spam," said Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies. "We talked to the people who care about this kind of law because they're living the problem every day. The research clearly shows American workers want spam off their desktops and out of their lives."
The data from the first survey contained information from 1,400 respondents, however, only 841 of those respondents were employed outside of the home, and only 488 were employed outside of the home and used e-mail and the Internet at work.
Data from the second survey, which was conducted entirely by SurfControl and was culled from 1,065 members of the IT community, showed that 95 percent of those surveyed felt strongly that anti-spam legislation should be enacted, but not without the aid of technology.
In the meantime, Congress is moving slowly toward a solution.
With the start of the 108th Congress in January, there are high hopes that anti-spam bills that were introduced in the last session, but failed to pass, will be revisited with an reinvigorated agenda.
According to Senator Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), Chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee, Congress is expected to take action as early as the spring, coupled with a three-day FTC public "Spam Forum" that will explore the technical, financial, and legal issues associated with legislation that enforces the cessation of spam.
The FTC has conducted workshops in the past that help get the issues out on the table and educate people, said a representative for SurfControl.