The largest US business federation joined the movement Tuesday for legislation to curb "spam" or unwanted e-mail that some say is clogging the Internet.
At a congressional hearing, the US Chamber of Commerce urged lawmakers to quickly pass legislation that would curb unwanted e-mail, saying it is "undermines the productivity of the nations businesses."
"The proliferation of bulk, unsolicited commercial e-mail has become more than a nuisance," said Joe Rubin, the Chamber's executive director for technology. "Increasingly, consumers are getting bombarded with pornographic and misleading e-mail that overshadows the online communication efforts of legitimate companies."
Rubin said the Chamber backs legislation that allows Internet service providers to go after spammers, strengthens the Federal Trade Commission's enforcement power and creates a single, uniform code for e-mail communications.
Several bills have been introduced in Congress, including one that would make sending some unsolicited e-mails a crime.
Congress has been prodded into acting amid mushrooming of marketing messages that now comprise up to half of all e-mail traffic, according to some studies.
Assistant Attorney General William Moschella told the House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday that the Bush administration supports tougher civil and criminal penalties for some fraudulent types of spam, but cautioned lawmakers about going too far.
"We are hearing clearly that people simply do not want to wade through unwanted e-mail offering pornography, untested medications, and shady financial deals," he said.
"At the same time, adopting too much regulation in this area or instituting an inflexible regime regulating all commercial electronic mail also threatens the openness and success of the Internet."
He said the administration would support "efforts that will target the problem of unsolicited commercial e-mail, particularly e-mail designed to facilitate consumer fraud."