In its first test of a rule aimed at protecting unsuspecting e-mail users from viewing X-rated material, Microsoft files seven suits against unknown spammers who allegedly sent millions of improperly labeled messages to Hotmail users.
Microsoft on Thursday fired off seven lawsuits against a band of unknown spammers who allegedly sent millions of sexually explicit e-mails to Microsofts MSN Hotmail user base without proper labeling, as required by the CAN-SPAM Act and FTC (Federal Trade Commission) rules.
The seven "John Doe" lawsuits filed in Washington State Superior Court in King County accuse the groups of failing to meet the rules labeling provisions, which require that sexually oriented e-mail solicitations include the label "SEXUALLY EXPLICIT:" in both the subject line and in the initially viewable area of an e-mail message.
It is the first time that Microsoft Corp. is using the requirement, known as the "brown paper wrapper" rule, in lawsuits against spammers, according to a company spokesman.
The "brown paper wrapper" rule, which was adopted and put into effect by the FTC on May 19, aims to ensure that Internet users are protected from viewing unwanted adult-oriented images and content in the immediately viewable portion of spam e-mail. The rule also is intended to help spam filters in distinguishing and filtering this kind of spam.
Read more here about Microsofts efforts to fight spam.
According to a complaint seen by eWEEK.com, Microsoft is alleging that the spam groups used a variety of sophisticated techniques to spoof e-mail addresses and to obscure the point of origin and transmission path of the sexually explicit messages.
Microsoft is alleging that the defendants operate a number of Web sites, including those with names such as blondegroupies.com, alagasta.net, gobydesign.biz, munchiesman.biz and jackowacko.info.
In the complaint, the company said its MSN Hotmail customers received millions of vulgar e-mails without the labeling requirement. In many cases, the e-mails were sent from open proxies or from hijacked computers to disguise the identity of the spammers.
Click here for a column on why the CAN-SPAM Act "misses its mark."
In some cases, Microsoft said fictitious domain names or URLs belonging to innocent third parties were used without permission, in violation of the law.
The lawsuits also allege that the spammers failed to include an unsubscribe option for the unsolicited mail or a physical address of the sender.
The seven suits follow another "John Doe" lawsuit that Microsoft filed last month against spammers who allegedly solicited, among other things, Korean-language adult-oriented Web sites.
Microsoft said it has supported more than 115 legal actions worldwide against spammers, including 86 lawsuits filed in the United States.
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