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Accused spammer must pay MySpace $6 million

Order by arbitrator is the second recent legal victory for the social-networking site over alleged spammers.

MySpace continues to wage a legal war on alleged spammers.

An arbitrator has ordered Media Breakaway and Chief Executive Scott Richter to pay the social-networking giant $4.8 million in damages and $1.2 million in legal fees, according to legal filings. The company's employees were also ordered to stay off MySpace.

News Corp.'s MySpace accused Media Breakaway and Richter, who has been accused of spamming consumers in the past, of launching phishing attacks and sending unsolicited messages to MySpace users. Representatives from Media Breakaway were not immediately available for comment.

Richter is a noted and controversial Internet marketer. Two years ago, he paid $7 million to Microsoft to settle a lawsuit that accused him of sending illegal spam. Microsoft originally sued for $20 million.

The $6 million award is a fraction of the $234 million that the courts ordered Sanford Wallace, the so-called spam king, to pay MySpace last month after he failed to mount any kind of legal defense. The anti-spam judgment is believed to be the largest so far under the 2003 Can-Spam Act.

"MySpace has zero tolerance for illegal activity on our site," MySpace said in a statement, "and is committed to bringing to justice those who try to harm our members."

The reason Richter is paying so much less is that the arbitrator said it was unfair to hold Media Breakaway responsible for all the wrongdoing of the site's affiliates. Media Breakaway has loose ties with companies or individuals that send traffic to sites owned by advertisers who pay Media Breakaway for the leads or sales, according to court documents.

MySpace has traditionally been an easy target. Spammers could hit thousands of "friends" with messages with little effort, the records show.

The arbitrator in the case noted that Media Breakaway has made efforts to comply with the law, such as making affiliates sign anti-phishing agreements. Some of the affiliates either ignored or were not aware of the agreements, the arbitrator wrote.

But the arbitrator also found that Media Breakaway's affiliate managers were "deficient or that on more than a few occasions...consciously condoned and encouraged unlawful spamming activities."