Spammers handed record US$234 million fine -- eat that

MySpace has won a court judgement against spammers

The US CAN-SPAM law has chewed another alleged spam outfit, this time handing out a world record fine of US$234 million to two individuals.

Social networking site MySpace won a Los Angeles court judgement against Sanford "spamford" Wallace and his partner Walter Rines for creating and hijacking accounts on the service to flood users with spam adverts for a range of goods.

It is the account hijacking that appears to have angered My Space in particular, some of it carried out by obtaining passwords fraudulently.

"MySpace has zero tolerance for those who attempt to act illegally on our site," MySpace's chief security officer, Hemanshu Nigam, was quoted as saying after the ruling. "We remain committed to punishing those who violate the law and try to harm our members."

The men sent 730,000 spam messages to MySpace users, some of which appeared to come from trusted contacts, rending asunder the whole concept that social networkers are in control of the contacts with whom they choose to associate.

The huge sum involved is derived almost entirely using a precise calculation of US$100 recompense for every user abused, a sum that was then tripled for the deliberate manner in which the men acted. My Space also added its own costs for delivery and bandwidth consumption.

"Anybody who's been thinking about engaging in spam are going to say, 'Wow, I better not go there.' Spammers don't want to be prosecuted. They are there to make money. It's our job to send a message to stop them," Nigam said to the Associated Press.

It remains unclear how, or even if, MySpace will ever be able to claim the sums from the men, one of whom has faced large fines in the past, albeit not on this extraordinary scale.

Awards against spammers tend to be within the territory of the low millions, though one organization did recently lodge a massive US$1 billion claim against a separate group of alleged spammers.

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