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Security

Antispam activist claims victory

Francis Uy, who posted a purported spammer's address and phone number on his Web site, says a judge denied the Internet marketer's request to remove the information.

    An antispam activist who posted a purported spammer's contact information on his Web site is claiming a legal victory.

    Francis Uy said a Maryland state judge refused the Internet marketer's request to remove his address and phone number from the site.

    Uy, a Web coordinator at the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University, said he posted the address and phone number of George Alan Moore Jr. on his "Maryland's most wanted spammers" list to give the Internet marketer a taste of his own medicine. Moore's company, Maryland Internet Marketing, hawks products including Fat-N-Emy and Extreme Colon Cleanser via e-mail.

    Moore responded to the posting by suing Uy, claiming harassment. In a handwritten filing submitted to Maryland's lowest court, Moore claimed that as a result of the posting, he received 70 products and 200 magazines via regular mail that he did not order and was subject to about five threatening phone calls a day, including one that said, "We are watching you." Moore said that Uy acted "in a persistent pattern of conduct, composed of a series of acts over time, that shows a continuity of purpose to harass."

    But on Monday, a judge disagreed, Uy said, ruling that Uy did not violate the state's harassment laws in part because he posted true information about Moore's business contact data on his site. Uy plans to keep the site up and running.

    Uy said that he decided to post Moore's name on the Web after receiving a message from him offering what appeared to be an unauthorized copy of a Norton Antivirus product. Uy said he often tries to track down sources of spam, particularly looking for those that originate in Maryland. On his site, he urges people to sue under Maryland's antispam law.

    Uy said that he hopes his actions will embolden others to fight spam rather than to just delete it. "I'm just letting people know this guy's a spammer, and he may have spammed you," Uy said. "If he has, check out your legal rights."

    Moore can appeal the decision. He did not return a request for comment.

    Courts are increasingly becoming a heated forum for spam battles, as people get more and more desperate to fight the scourge of unwanted messages inundating their inboxes. Unlike the Moore v. Uy case, most claims are brought by the recipients of the marketing messages, not the sender.

    Small claims courts are among the most popular venues for such fights among individuals, but bigger companies are starting to take spam-related disputes to higher courts. Both AOL and EarthLink have won monetary damages in suits against spammers. Microsoft is so fed up with spammers that it has sued in federal court to learn the identities of some and it has promised to pursue similar suits.