By filing lawsuits together, the four leading providers of e-mail services can send a more powerful message to spammers to think twice before sending bulk mail, said Aaron Kornblum, Microsofts Internet safety enforcement attorney. "An important goal in filing these suits is a deterrent message," Kornblum said. "The message to spammers is that there are real consequences imposed on you if you engage in this behavior." The lawsuits are an important deterrent but only solve part of the problem since CAN-SPAM applies within the United States, Takahashi said.As far as the individual lawsuits, heres a rundown of what each company filed:
AOL, along with its case against 20 unidentified spimmers, filed a second lawsuit in federal court in Alexandria, Va., against peddlers of controlled substances such as Vicodin and prescription drugs. The suit against 10 "John Does" is the first one from AOL based on a large number of complaints from its European and Canadian members, the company said.
EarthLink, of Atlanta, sued 50 unidentified spammerscalling half "mortgage lead spammers" and another half "drug spammersin U.S. District Court in Atlanta. EarthLink accuses the spammers of sending millions of deceptive and illegal e-mails to advertise prescription drugs and low-rate mortgages and loans.
Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, in three lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, accuses spammers of spoofing the major ISPs domains and of using open proxies to send spam mail.
The defendants include two groups of "John Does" as well as a New Jersey company, Herbal Technologies LLC. Microsoft alleges that they sent millions of unwanted e-mails for herbal growth supplements, mortgage services and get-rich-quick schemes.
Yahoo, of Sunnyvale, Calif., sued East Coast Exotics Entertainment Group Inc. and Epoch LLC for allegedly sending sexually explicit e-mails in bulk to Yahoo Mail subscribers.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., Yahoo also accuses the companies of disguising the originating address of e-mails, sending messages with misleading headers and failing to provide a way to unsubscribe from future messages, among other things.
Editors Note: This story was updated to include comments from an analyst and from Microsoft as well as further details about the lawsuits.
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"In the long term, were facing a whack-a-mole problem where we can get rid of these [spam] corporations here, but then the spammers can show up in a foreign company," Takahashi said. "Its part of a larger solution, but an important part."