POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

You've Got Mail

by David Trumbull

May 7, 2004

As Republican U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said, in a 1964 opinion overturning a ban on pornographic films, "I shall not today attempt further to define [obscenity] … but I know it when I see it." With today's internet, he'd see alot more --and alot more often. Who among us doesn't spend several minutes, every morning, deleting unsolicited email promising enhanced "performance" and access to photos of quite amazing description?

I'm not sure which spam is the most annoying and embarrassing. Annoying are the adverts for products I don't need --any more inches and I'd have to buy specially designed trousers, thank you very much. Creepily embarrassing is the spam that hits the target--just how did they find out about those fishnet stockings?

Our postmodern hygienic and therapeutic society is no longer supposed be embarrassed by sex. But we all know that, as the old joke goes, "Is sex dirty? Yes, if you do it right." Even married missionary-style intercourse seems a little weird if you visualize real people you know--let alone your parents--doing it. Imagine a child's reaction to a vivid description of almost any sex act-- "you put what in someone's what? That's gross!"

Starting May 19th 2004, spam that contains sexually oriented material must include the warning “SEXUALLY-EXPLICIT: ” in the subject line or face fines for violations of federal law.

On December 16, 2003, President Bush signed into law the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM Act), which establishes a framework of administrative, civil, and criminal tools to help America's consumers, businesses, and families combat unsolicited commercial e-mail, known as spam.

According to President Bush, "The new law is a pro-consumer measure that allows consumers to choose to stop further unsolicited spam from a sender. It also provides a protection against spam containing unmarked sexually-oriented or pornographic material."

You can read more about the new CAN-SPAM Act on the Executive Branch website Be careful entering that URL, if you mistakenly type, you get an explicit porn site. Don't say we didn't warn you!

David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee; he may be contacted at (617) 742-6881 or Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.