Canadian Senator’s Bill Aims to Crack Down on Spam

The suspension of Parliament in the ongoing political crisis is not likely to interfere with a much-needed anti-spam bill tabled earlier this year.

Bill S-202, the Anti-Spam Act, which received its second reading in early December before Parliament was prorogued, would crack down on spam by prohibiting the sending of commercial emails to Canadians without their prior consent.

Introduced by Senator Yoine Goldstein, the bill would also ban practices such as automated “email harvesting,” and would require all commercial email messages – even those sent legitimately – to have a clear subject line, accurate contact information, and an easy way to unsubscribe.

While Canada has a national privacy law, it is the only G8 country that does not have any anti-spam laws and technically it is not illegal to send spam emails in Canada.

“Canada needs this legislation and I really intend to be able to push it forward – I’m really committed to getting it through in 2009,” says Goldstein.

As well as providing police with new tools, Bill S-202 would equip Internet Service Providers (ISP) with the authority to block, filter and refuse spam messages. Upon giving reasonable notice, ISP’s would also be able to refuse or cancel service or refuse access to any person who has been convicted under the bill or who sends commercial electronic messages that the ISP has reasonable grounds to believe are sent in contravention of the bill.

Businesses aware that they were being promoted by spam would also be liable unless they took action to stop the messages or notify authorities.

Exemptions would be made for certain groups, such as charities, political parties, polling firms and businesses that have a pre-existing relationship with an email user. However, these groups would still be required to allow users to opt out of further messages.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first spam email ever sent.

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