Company Sues Spammers in Series of Lawsuits Spurred by Member-Reported Junk Email
AOL Alleges Defendants Named in Lawsuits Are Responsible for Sending AOL Members One Billion Spam Emails, Resulting in Over 8 Million Member Spam Complaints
Dulles, VA – April 15, 2003 – America Online, Inc. (NYSE: AOL), as part of its ongoing, comprehensive battle against spammers, today announced a sweeping series of lawsuits against individuals and companies that it alleges have repeatedly sent members high volumes of unwanted junk emails using a variety of evasive means to circumvent AOL’s spam filters.
AOL is filing five separate lawsuits against over a dozen companies and individuals, who the Company alleges are together responsible for sending an estimated one billion spam emails to AOL members and generating over 8 million individual spam complaints from members. The latest lawsuits filed by AOL are the first to leverage the complaints received by AOL from its members who are using the popular “Report Spam” button in AOL 8.0.
The defendants named in these lawsuits are alleged to have sent a variety of offensive and unwanted spam emails including: pornography; male organ growth/enlargement products; mortgage and home refinancing offers; college degrees; steroids; cable TV descrambler products; and software products. The kinds of spammers and the type of spamming named in these lawsuits are exactly representative of what AOL members face on a daily basis.
The methods alleged to have been used by the named defendants in these cases to send spam to AOL members include many of the egregious and fraudulent methods used today by spammers, such as: falsification of email addresses; purposefully and systematically evading spam filters set up by AOL and its members; and pursuing other means of spamming members that are prohibited by AOL’s published “Unsolicited Bulk Email Policy” (see www.aol.com).
Because AOL’s proprietary email network is located in Virginia, these lawsuits were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria.
These lawsuits are the first anti-spam legal actions taken by AOL since May 2001, and they build on AOL’s highly successful, industry-leading anti-spam litigation campaign, which has included twenty anti-spam lawsuits against over 100 individual and corporate defendants. These efforts most recently resulted in a significant $6.9 million judgment against one group of defendants. The Company also stated that, as part of its continuing legal offensive against spammers, it has recently issued hundreds of “cease and desist” letters to spam senders – effectively putting them on notice that they too could be sued if they continue to spam AOL members.
In this new round of anti-spam lawsuits, AOL is seeking civil penalties, total monetary damages of at least $10 million, and court orders to immediately halt spamming from these defendants – using the legal remedies available under the Virginia Computer Crimes Act, the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the Washington Commercial Electronic Mail Act.
“Spammers take note: you can run, but you can’t hide. If you spam AOL, we will block you. If you evade our spam filters, we will use our members’ complaints to track you down and bring you to Court,” said Randall Boe, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of AOL. “Our members have been reporting millions of pieces of spam to us every day, and every time they do that they help us collect the evidence we need to track down the spammers. To us at AOL, spammers will continue to be targeted as ‘public enemy number one’.”ÿ Mr. Boe added: “We are acting on behalf of our members, who have essentially conducted their own ‘dragnet’ operation against spammers through an ongoing, online ‘neighborhood watch’ program where they report spam to AOL by the millions each day.”
Outline of Lawsuits
Member-Referred Defendant #1: Michael Levesque, ByteNight/WebXTasy of Washington State, and John Does 1-10. Spam Content: pornography, advertised through several different adult web sites (www.havetogetlaid.net and www.lotsofnudeslutz.net).
Member-Referred Defendant #2: George Moore, Maryland Internet Marketing of Maryland, and 14 of their advertising affiliates. Spam Content: software products (www.getnortonhere.net).
Member-Referred Defendant #3: John Doe(s) of unknown location(s). Spam Content: cable TV descrambler products, pornography, college degrees, male organ growth and enhancement products (www.optin-business.com).
Member-Referred Defendant #4: John Doe(s) of unknown location(s). Spam Content: steroids, advertised through a dozen different websites (www.bcxt.com).
Member-Referred Defendant #5: John Doe(s) of unknown location(s). Spam Content: home mortgage and refinancing leads (www.yourbestmortgagerate.com).
Federal Legislation Last week, the Company issued a statement in support of new, bipartisan Federal legislation introduced by Senators Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), named the “CAN-SPAM Act” (“Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003”).ÿ At the time of the bill’s introduction, AOL said it would continue to work together with other ISPs and policymakers to ensure that spam legislation has strong remedies, and provides the weapons needed to enable and empower AOL and other ISPs to pursue the most egregious and offensive spam violators – those who continue their daily spam attacks using the most fraudulent and evasive methods.
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