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How MySpace brought down a spammer

Internet attorney Eric J. Sinrod explains how MySpace defeated a noted spammer.

MySpace.com is well known as a social-networking service that allows members to create unique personal profiles online to find and communicate with other people. But did you also know that MySpace is actively trying to root out spammers?

In March, MySpace filed a lawsuit in federal court against Sanford Wallace doing business as FreeVegasClubs.com, RealVegas-Sins.com and Feeble Minded Productions. The company alleged it was the victim of an abusive scheme to disseminate commercial messages and solicitations to MySpace users.

MySpace claimed it had received many complaints related to the defendant's Web sites. After an investigation, it discovered that the defendant had created more than 11,000 similar MySpace profiles and 11,383 unique America Online e-mail accounts to register those profiles.

MySpace concluded that the defendant used an automated bot to register those profiles and addresses. In doing so, the company's unique e-mail address registration requirement was circumvented. So was MySpace's daily limit on the number of messages that can be sent from any one profile in a single day.

The company claimed that the defendant sent out a series of messages, comments and bulletins to its users that were designed to redirect them to a phony Web site containing a MySpace logo. Members' user names and passwords were then solicited through a box that closely resembled the screen used by members when logging onto the service. The defendant then allegedly used this phishing technique to hijack members' user names and passwords to log onto their profiles and send messages to their friends and also direct them to the defendant's Web sites.

Overall, MySpace asserted that the defendant sent nearly 400,000 messages and posted 890,000 comments from 320,000 hijacked MySpace user accounts. MySpace also claimed that the defendant created groups on MySpace that redirected users to the defendant's Web sites, which included altering the MySpace "unsubscribe" link to point to the defendant's Web sites instead of actually allowing members to unsubscribe.

On top of all of this, MySpace argued that the defendant's Web sites contained adult-oriented material. Because MySpace permits users as young as 14 years old to create profiles, minors were put at risk of being exposed to offensive content.

Finally, the defendant admitted his Internet business earns him about $1 million per year.

MySpace asked the federal court to enter an injunction prohibiting the defendant's activities, claiming relief under the Can-Spam law. This statute, among other things, regulates how commercial e-mail is transmitted, prohibits the use of false, misleading or misleading information, and requires accurate contact information.

While MySpace did not obtain all of the relief it sought, it still scored a major victory in a recent ruling.

Specifically, the defendant was ordered not to access or use the MySpace Web site to transmit any electronic messages. The court said he could not establish or maintain any MySpace profiles or accounts. What's more, he was ordered not to use MySpace for any commercial purpose or to refer to MySpace in connection with any unsolicited electronic communication in any way that suggests that the message is affiliated with the company.

The ruling also prohibited the defendant from using any MySpace logo in a manner that would suggest to users that they are logging onto their MySpace accounts. Finally, the defendant was ordered not to induce users of the social network to provide MySpace identifying information without the full knowledge and consent that the defendant is not affiliated with MySpace.

Such an injunction plainly benefits MySpace users. But this relief also helps the company, which incurred bandwidth and delivery costs, not to mention the added expenses that went into stopping the defendant's activities.