MySpace sues 'Spam King' Richter

Notorious spammer used phished MySpace accounts to send mass mailings to members; site seeks monetary damages and injunction.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read
MySpace.com has filed a lawsuit against Scott Richter, the so-called "Spam King" who allegedly sent out millions of unsolicited "bulletins" to MySpace members, the site announced Monday.

The News Corp.-owned social-networking site cited violations of multiple state and U.S. antispam laws, including California statutes and the federal Can-Spam Act, in its case against Richter, who was the proprietor of a site called OptInRealBig.com. According to MySpace, Richter gained access to MySpace user accounts via phishing schemes, or took control of accounts that had already been phished, and then used the service's bulletin feature, which sends messages to all of a user's "friends," to churn out unsolicited messages that advertised products ranging from Polo shirts to cell phone ringtones.

The suit is aiming for monetary damages and an injunction that would permanently ban Richter and his affiliates from MySpace. The amount of money sought by MySpace has not been disclosed.

Richter was already ordered to pay $7 million in a 2003 lawsuit filed by Microsoft after initially refusing to settle the dispute for $100,000. Microsoft announced in 2005 that it would be using the money from the settlement to fuel further antispam operations.

Phishing is just one security problem facing MySpace these days. In December, the site had to deal with a QuickTime worm that posted links to fraudulent Web sites by exploiting a vulnerability in MySpace's architecture. It addition, it continues to battle safety problems, now that several high-profile incidents have made MySpace a seemingly perpetual bogeyman among parents' organizations and the U.S. government.

Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace's chief security officer, said in a statement Monday that the service is "committed to protecting our community from phishing and spam." He added that "if it takes filing a federal suit to stop someone who violates the law and damages our members' experience, then that's what we'll do."