School leaders might have an easier time trying to filter sexually explicit internet spam from their students’ and staff members’ computers, thanks to a new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rule that went into effect May 19.

According to the new rule, unsolicited commercial eMail that contains sexually oriented material must include the words “SEXUALLY EXPLICIT” in the subject line.

The rule also bars graphic images from appearing in the opening body of the message. Instead, the recipient must take some action in order to see the objectionable material, either by scrolling down in the eMail or by clicking on a provided link.

Jonathan Kraden, staff attorney with the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said the label “should help the computers to filter if a computer user decides to set [his or her] filtering system up to recognize these two words.”

He added, “It should also help eMail recipients filter visually, so they can go through their mail and decide which messages they want to see.”

Spammers who violate the rule face possible imprisonment and criminal fines of up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for an organization. But skeptics say tracking down violators can be difficult, because spammers often try to escape being directly identified by using forged return addresses or by bouncing their eMail messages through unprotected relay computers on the internet.


Federal Trade Commission