On May 12 in an LA district court, Judge Audrey B. Collins awarded the popular social-networking website MySpace a $234 million anti-spam judgment, which is believed to be the largest award of its nature to date.
Judge Collins awarded MySpace with this hefty sum after spam defendants Sanford Wallace, a.k.a. “Spamford,” and Walter Rines neglected to show up for their day in court.
The two top-spammers, Wallace and Rines, were sued because of major violations of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act).
According to the Federal Trade Commission, the CAN-SPAM Act “establishes requirements for those who send commercial e-mail, spells out penalties for spammers and companies whose products are advertised in spam if they violate the law and give consumers the right to ask e-mailers to stop spamming them.”
The law follows that a violation of any of the provisions is subject to fines of up to $11,000.
Despite this, MySpace may never collect its sizable award because the defendants did not show up for court, and there is no way to collect from them. The site hopes this judgment will act as a deterrent for other spammers.
“Anybody who’s been thinking about engaging in spam are going to say, ‘Wow, I better not go there,'” said MySpace chief security officer Hemanshu Nigam to the Associated Press. “Spammers don’t want to be prosecuted. They are there to make money. It’s our job to send a message to stop them.”
The presence of spam not only affects MySpace as a site, but it also contributes unnecessary stress to the lives of MySpace users.
“It’s a hassle trying to sort through junk mail from actual mail,” said UC Davis sophomore and MySpace user Kay Umeda. “If I don’t know the person, I tend not to click on the message in fear of getting a virus or something, but because of this, I’ve deleted important things like credit card checks.”
Not only does MySpace hope this decision will prevent spamming activities, Umeda shares the same sentiment.
“It would be nice not to get any spam,” Umeda said. “I’m kind of on the pessimistic side, though. There’s always people sending out spam and risking getting caught. It probably won’t stop spam completely from reeking havoc on people’s computers, but it might stop the bigger spam contributors.”
It was reported by the Associated Press that Nigam said Wallace and Rines created their own MySpace accounts or took over existing ones through “phishing” scams to distribute their spam to unsuspecting users.
According to an FTC Consumer Alert “How Not to Get Hooked by a ‘Phishing’ Scam,” “phishing involves Internet fraudsters who send spam or pop-up messages to lure personal information (credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security number, passwords or other sensitive information) from unsuspecting victims.”
MySpace attempted to address user anxiety about the issue. “MySpace has zero tolerance for those who attempt to act illegally on our site,” Nigam said in a statement. “We remain committed to punishing those who violate the law and try to harm our members.”
ALEX BULLER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.