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Facebook files three antispam lawsuits

The social network has flexed its legal muscle against two individuals and a corporation it alleges were creating fake profiles and fan pages to spam and deceive users.

Facebook announced today that it has filed suit against two individuals and a company that it says are responsible for propagating deceptive spam offers across the massive social network, including some that encouraged members to spam their friends in turn.

"This week, in a U.S. federal court in San Jose, California, we filed three lawsuits alleging violations of our terms and applicable law by defendants attempting to trick people on Facebook into signing up for mobile subscriptions and sending spam to their friends," a blog entry posted by Facebook's security team explained. "In three separate complaints, we allege that Steven Richter, Jason Swan, and Max Bounty, Inc. used Facebook to offer enticing, but non-existent products and services."

The lawsuits, filed Tuesday, allege that Jason Swan of Long Island, N.Y., had been running "more than 27 fake profiles, 13 fake pages, and at least 7 applications as part of an affiliate marketing advertising scam"; that Richter, also of Long Island, had been running about 40 fake profiles and 43 fake pages; and that the Canada-based Max Bounty Inc. had been misappropriating Facebook's logo and using deceptive marketing in its hawking of free gift cards, iPads, and other goods to consumers. All three are charged with violations of the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM), and other state and federal laws.

Almost exactly a year ago, Facebook was awarded $711 million in a court judgment against Sanford Wallace, the self-described "spam king" who had been accused of fraudulently obtaining access to Facebook accounts and then using them to run phishing scams. Among other things, Wallace is now permanently banned from Facebook.

In another judgment related to CAN-SPAM violations, this one in 2008, Facebook was awarded $873 million.

"Stay tuned as our push against spammers and scammers escalates over the next month, year and beyond," the post from Facebook today read. "We have other actions pending, and there will be more to come."

Security on Facebook has been a hot topic lately because of a controversial Wall Street Journal investigation that found many of Facebook's major application developers were violating the social network's terms of service by selling some user information to marketers. The report was assailed by many tech industry professionals who said that it made too much fuss about something that actually wasn't particularly surprising or alarming, but others have argued that the real problem is that Facebook didn't appear to be doing enough to police its advertisers and developers for terms of service infractions.