In seven federal lawsuits, America Online Inc., EarthLink Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. are targeting at least 85 purveyors of unsolicited messages, many of which were named as "John Does" because their identity was uncertain.
Each of the lawsuits, filed across four states, allege violations of the federal CAN-SPAM law as well as other state and federal charges. CAN-SPAM took effect in January as way to reduce the amount of unsolicited messages flooding inboxes, though questions remain about its effectiveness.
For the first time, AOL went after a newer, and less common, form of spam called "spim." In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, in Alexandria, Va., AOL sued 20 unidentified defendants for sending unwanted messages through instant messaging services and online chat room, the Dulles, Va., company announced.
"AOL and our members continue to make spam-fighting a priority, and we continue to use the legal process on their behalf to help put a lid on the worst, most active spammers—no matter where they are, or how they send their unwanted junk," said Randall Boe, AOLs executive vice president and general counsel, in a statement.
AOLs focus on spim comes at a critical time since unsolicited IM and chat messages are just beginning to grow, said Teney Takahashi, a market analyst at the Radicati Group Inc., in Palo Alto, Calif. Radicati projects that the number of worldwide spim messages sent each day will grow from 1.2 billion this year to 17.9 billion in 2008.
"We are in the earlier days of spim," Takahashi said. "As ISPs and e-mail software shore up their defenses with anti-spam filters, then spammers will need to find another mode for their message."
The latest lawsuits are the second round filed by the four companies, which last year founded the Anti-Spam Alliance to collaborate on legal and technical efforts against spam.
In March, the four companies filed six federal lawsuits and said at the time that they were the first suits to use the CAN-SPAM law.
Along with Virginia, the newest lawsuits were filed in federal courts in California, Washington and Georgia.
Among other charges, the suits accuse the spammers of spoofing the ISPs Internet domains, illegally trying to sell prescription drugs, sending deceptive e-mails, masking their identities and circumventing spam filters, according to the companies.