Virginia Tilts at Spam Windmill

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Tell it to the judge. Virginia's state legislature passed legislation forbidding Internet spam, and Governor Jim Gilmore plans to sign it into law. But that doesn't mean it'll pass muster with the Constitution. "This is another example of a misguided legislature banning free speech," says TIME Digital editor Joshua Quittner. "One person's spam is another person's expression of their First Amendment rights. It'll probably be struck down as soon as it reaches the appropriate court."

The legislation, which provides for substantial penalties in instances where spam crashes computer systems, and outlaws the possession of software that allows senders to disguise their e-mail address, has the support of Virginia-based America Online. "Spamming is obviously a terrible plague on AOL, but they have pretty good ways of dealing with it," says Quittner. "The solution here is technological rather than legal -- AOL simply has to come up with even better ways of dealing with the problem." Until then, laws or not, you've got spam.