May 24, 2001 08:05am
Media Grok: The Media Are Away, the House of Reps Is at Play
by: Deborah Asbrand
With their eyes on the Senate, the media couldn't have cared less what the House of Representatives was doing yesterday. So when the judiciary committee watered down the anti-spam bill that would have given consumers new ammo against "Better Sex Now!" e-mail missives, hardly any reporters were around to notice.
That's too bad, because according to wire-service reports, legislative shenanigans related to the bill included stripping out the juicy parts, like letting consumers sue companies that ignore remove-me requests, and adding new strictures, like requiring porno messages to be labeled as such. Coverage of the House bill noted that business types and Republican legislators had lined up solidly against it.
The AP credited Rick Lane of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with this forked-tongue statement: "I don't know that language could be drafted that might be satisfactory, but we're willing to look at anything." That's the attitude, Rick. CNN.com made the most of the anti-spam bill quotefest reporting pleas from the Direct Marketing Association that, hey, businesses have rights too, including the right to contact consumers without first obtaining their permission. ISPs were blunter. "Let's put it this way: We hate spam," CNN.com quoted Dave Baker of EarthLink as saying.
So do we. But according to AP, the judiciary committee members fretted that the bill might invoke a host of horrors, such as frivolous lawsuits, too-powerful ISPs and obstacles to legitimate business communication. Feh, said Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank. The newly morphed bill doesn't go far enough to protect consumers, Frank told Reuters. So what if spam is mostly an annoyance, Frank pointed out, so are excessive noise and second-hand smoke. In the meantime, here's a way the bill could get itself a little more ink: Let's ask Jim Jeffords what he thinks.