MySpace Wins Record $230M Suit Against Spammer

It's a landmark victory as a California court awards the social networking site staggering damages against a spammer.
Spam

MySpace is emerging the winner of a $230 million judgment against a spammer in what's believed to be the largest antispam case ever.

The ruling came after defendants Sanford Wallace -- the notorious and self-appointed "Spam King" -- and Walter Rines failed to appear in the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California on Monday.

"MySpace has zero tolerance for those who attempt to act illegally on our site," Hemanshu Nigam, the social network site's chief security officer, said in a statement. "We thank the court for serving justice upon defendants Wallace and Rines and we remain committed to punishing those who violate the law and try to harm our members."

The judgment includes awards under the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, which limits per-message damages to $100. The Federal Trade Commission updated earlier this week to make it easier for consumers to determine who is sending e-mail marketing messages.

Wallace and Rines had been charged with hijacking other people's MySpace sites or setting up their own and sending more than 700,000 junk messages to site members.

The messages attempted to lure the recipients to third-party sites, where Wallace and Rines made money from selling ringtones or other products, or through fees paid from the sites based on how many hits the spammers delivered.

MySpace first filed the suit against Wallace in March 2007, and expanded the complaint to include Rines in September after learning that the two had been working together.

MySpace said that Wallace appeared in court represented by an attorney for the first few hearings, but then stopped showing up. His current whereabouts are unknown, but the company said that it plans to work aggressively to track him down and collect what it is owed.

The court ruled jointly against Wallace and Rines in the amount of $160.4 million, and found that Rines individually owed an additional $63.4 million. The court also held them responsible for $1.5 million for violation of a California anti-phishing law, and awarded MySpace $4.7 million in attorney fees.

The court also issued a permanent injunction prohibiting Rines and Wallace from accessing MySpace or soliciting information from any MySpace member without providing notice that they do not represent the company.

The company told InternetNews.com that spam rates on its site have been in decline, and that it hopes this judgment will deter other spammers from sending junk messages to MySpace users.

MySpace also has litigation pending against high-profile spammer Scott Richter -- another claimant to the "Spam King" throne -- and Blue China Group, a Hong Kong-based entity that MySpace is pursuing in U.S. and Chinese courts.

In addition to litigation, the social networking play has undertaken other efforts to combat the problem of spammers, compiling a list of third-party sites that have been reported in connection with spammers or phishing scams.

In February, the company began showing warnings that appear when a user clicks on a link to one of these sites. The interstitial message warns that users are about to navigate to an off-site location that might not be safe.

This article was first published on InternetNews.com.






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