Microsoft Launches Legal Blitz Vs. Spammers

Microsoft announced a legal blitz against spammers
across two continents Tuesday, filing 15 lawsuits in the United States and
United Kingdom that target entities the company holds responsible for
sending more than 2 billion spam messages to MSN and Hotmail users.

Of the 15 suits, 12 were filed in Microsoft’s home state, Washington, another in California, and
the other two in London. The cases go after spammers, which Microsoft
accuses of using deception and fraud in their unsolicited commercial bulk
e-mail. Washington state law allows Internet service providers to file suit
against spammers.

“We recognize spam is a big problem and we need a coordinated partnership,”
said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel and senior vice president,
during a news conference. “We at Microsoft are ramping up our efforts to
combat spam around the world.”

Smith shared the stage in Redmond, Wash., with the state’s attorney general,
Christine Gregoire, who lauded the cases as evidence that the only solution
to the spam problem would involve industry, lawmakers and regulators working
together.

“We must get tough on spammers,” she said. “It’s become obvious that our
delete key will not solve the problem.”

In one case, Microsoft accuses two Dayton, Ohio, companies, Email Gold and
NetGold, and three individuals of sending repeated offers for a how-to spam
kit to its members using falsified MSN and Hotmail domains. In another case,
Microsoft alleges a Haddonfield, N.J., company, The E-Offer Store, sent spam
using fake subject lines. Other cases involve either false subject lines or
spoofed domain names. Two cases list the defendants as John Doe.

Both of the civil cases filed in the UK revolve around the harvesting of
e-mail addresses to build spam databases. Both defendants are unnamed.

Smith said Microsoft would seek to have the spammers both shut down, as well
as financial penalties.

Gregoire said financial penalties were key in the fight against spam. As it
stands, a spammer can buy a CD of e-mail addresses for a few dollars and
send out millions of unsolicited e-mails for a small cost. Stiff financial
penalties would alter the cost-benefit analysis, she said.

“At the end of the day, this is all about economics,” Gregoire said.

Microsoft is the latest major ISP to target spammers. EarthLink made hay
with its pursuit of Howard Carmack, known as the “Buffalo Spammer.” The
Atlanta ISP won a $16 million
judgment against Carmack
in May, and a week later he was arrested by New
York state authorities. Last July, EarthLink won a $25 million
judgment
in another spam case.

AOL, likewise, has hit spammers with legal actions. In April, it filed five
lawsuits
seeking $10 million in damages against spammers it claims are
responsible for more than 8 million customer complaints.

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