Keeping Porn Spam From Kids

Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott filed the state's first e-mail spamming lawsuit Thursday, accusing a 22-year-old University of Texas at Austin student and his California business partner of sending hundreds of thousands of unsolicited, misleading e-mails.

Ryan Pitylak heads the fourth-largest spamming operation in the world, Abbott said. The lawsuit alleges Pitylak, with Mark Trotter, his business partner in California, have been sending the e-mails since at least Sept. 1, 2003.

Lin Hughes, Pitylak's and Trotter's attorney, said her clients took great pains to make sure the e-mails were legal.

The lawsuit seeks millions of dollars for violations of the federal Controlling Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003, known as the CAN-SPAM Act. The act made illegal sending uninvited e-mails that could mislead recipients.

Dewey Coffman of net-sieve, Inc. is what CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod calls "a spam vigilante."

From his garage in Texas, Axelrod says, Coffman seaches out spammers and tips prosecutors. Coffman refers to it as "chasing roaches."

He says spam is simply out of control, despite the CAN-SPAM Act: "If things continue, e-mail will no longer be a viable form of communication. Everybody will go back to faxes and phone calls. It's gotten that bad."

Coffman says new spam defense programs need to be developed.

The problem is particularly perplexing for parents, notes Penny Nance, president of Kids First Coalition, because many kids have e-mail accounts and a significant percentage of spam is racy, even pornographic.

The Kaiser Family Foundation says 3 out of 5 children have stumbled onto pornography. That doesn't even include kids who've gone looking for it, she points out.

So what can parents do?

It's almost impossible for a parent to sit over a child's shoulder 24/7, Nance concedes.

But, she tells The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith, parents are always the first line of defense.

Getting computers out of the kids' bedrooms and into the family room provides some accountability, and that's the first thing Nance suggests.

Also, half of all families have no filter on their computer, and that's "a huge mistake," Nance says. There's a long list of good filters families can use to protect their kids on her group's Web site.

If you're already getting spam, you need to work with your Internet Service Provider to make sure you're using all its parental controls. The ISP controls have gotten better and better. It helps if you limit your kids to search engines geared for them, such as Yahooligans and Ask Jeeves Kids.

Also, keep kids out of chat rooms. You go into chat rooms, spammers can get your e-mail address and spam you. E-mail addresses are osld and unsed and traded. Also, pedophiles go into them to seek targets.

Watch your kids on peer-to-peer sites as well. Often, when you download the technology to use for peer-to-peer sites, spyware is loaded onto your computer, and you wind up being spammed. You can block that by using a product called Blockster.

The final thing Nance urges is that you talk to your kids and explain the dangers of giving out personal information. Talking to our kids is absolutely important, she stresses.
  • Brian Dakss

Comments