Porn spam--legal minefield for employers

Lewd e-mail promoting pornography may soon pose more than just a technical challenge in the ongoing fight against spam--experts say it's set to become an acute legal problem too. Graphic images appearing unbidden on PCs by way of e-mail in-boxes could qualify as evidence of a "hostile work environment," something that's prohibited by federal employment law.

As a result, porn spam could begin to crop up in sexual harassment complaints from employees offended by the material. Even if companies aren't the source of such messages, they could be liable for hefty civil fines if managers know that porn spam is a problem and don't move to address it. "You have to provide a workplace that's free of sexual harassment. That right is so clearly established that no employer could say, 'I didn't know I had to do that,' if they're on notice about sex spam," said Michael Modl, an attorney who specializes in workplace harassment claims at the Madison, Wis., law firm of Axley Brynelson.

The legal arguments have not yet been tested in court, but scholars say the combination of lucrative damages and porn spam's steadily increasing volume will make lawsuits drawing on at-work porn spam inevitable. Statistics compiled by analysts at antispam-software company Brightmail show that pornographic solicitations represent the fastest-growing category of unwanted e-mail ads, doubling as a percentage of spam in the last few years.

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News source: c|net

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