Nov. 12, 2004--In the first of what promises to be many attempts to punish propagators of illegal junk e-mail or "spam," on November 5 a Virginia jury recommended jail time for a North Carolina man known as the world's eighth most prolific "spammer."
Jeremy Jaynes was convicted on three felony counts of sending unsolicited bulk email and duping the recipients out of millions of dollars. Jaynes' younger sister, Jessica DeGroot, was also fined under a new Virginia law that forbids "spam felonies" like concealing the originating address of an email and making false claims about products.
Spammers like Jaynes have emerged as a major concern for small business owners everywhere, as more than 50% of all e-mail traffic is considered spam, according to silicon.com, a website that tracks global Internet security issues.
Estimates by another security firm, Symantech, show that 30,000 computers a day are infected or disabled by unsolicited e-mail. The productivity and storage costs of dealing with spam are estimated to cost global businesses more than $25 billion a year.
Virginia's law is the most recent in a series of laws put in place to try and protect home and business users. The Federal Communication Commission passed its own anti-spam legislation that went into effect in January of this year and several states are set to pass laws similar to Virginia's.
But true progress against spam has been held up as major e-mail providers like America Online, Microsoft and Yahoo argue about adopting standards for e-mail authentication, which would make it harder for spammers to disguise their identities.
Darren Dahl is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine, which he has written for since 2004. He also works as a collaborative writer and editor and has partnered with several high-profile authors. Dahl lives in Asheville, North Carolina.