New round of spam suits from AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo

Anti-Spam Alliance firms file new suits against spammers and "spimmers"--people who spam over IM.

America Online, Microsoft, EarthLink and Yahoo are teaming again to turn up the heat on spammers.

The companies, which make up the Anti-Spam Alliance, announced on Thursday that they've each filed new lawsuits in U.S. Federal Court against senders of unwanted computer messages. The companies filed suits in the states of Washington, Georgia and California accusing defendants of violating the federal Can-Spam Act, along with other state and federal laws.

This round of lawsuits is the second time these companies have banded together to take legal action against spammers. In March, they collaborated to file the industry's first major round of lawsuits accusing spammers of violating the Can-Spam Law, which went into effect Jan. 1.

One of AOL's new lawsuits is noteworthy because it's the first to target "spim"--unwanted messages sent through instant messaging programs or chat rooms. So far spim has only affected a small number of users. Experts say the problem is growing but may be minimized by new enterprise-class IM applications and enhancements in consumer IM software. AOL's lawsuit may show spimmers that the company is serious about shutting down the threat through legal avenues as well.

"AOL and our members continue to make spam-fighting a priority, and we continue to use the legal process on (members') behalf to help put a lid on the worst, most active spammers--no matter where they are, or how they send their unwanted junk," Randall Boe, executive vice president and general counsel of AOL, said in a statement.

AOL and EarthLink also took aim at spammers peddling controlled substances, including Vicodin and other drugs, which are legally sold only by prescription. EarthLink's suit also accused several "John Doe" defendants of sending deceptive e-mails to advertise low mortgage or loan rates. The company accused the defendants of attempting to collect and resell consumers' names and contact information, which is illegal.

Microsoft filed three lawsuits alleging that defendants "spoofed" addresses from all four Internet service providers and sent millions of e-mails to users of its Hotmail e-mail service, soliciting herbal growth supplements, mortgage services and get-rich-quick schemes, all in violation of the Can-Spam law. "Spoofing" is a method of altering a domain name or e-mail address so that it appears to have come from a legitimate source.

And finally, Yahoo filed a lawsuit against East Coast Exotics Entertainment Group and Epoth, two adult entertainment companies, for disguising their identities, designing messages to circumvent spam filters and using sexually explicit subject lines to send unsolicited, sexually oriented e-mail messages.

Earlier this month, the first state case under Can-Spam was settled with the Massachusetts Attorney General's office. DC Enterprises agreed to pay $25,000 and halt further violations of Can-Spam, as well as Massachusetts advertising and mortgage broker laws.

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