MySpace's big spam win: Will it really be a deterrent?

MySpace's big spam win: Will it really be a deterrent?

Summary: MySpace won statutory damages of more than $230 million against spammers Stanford Wallace and Walter Rines, but the big question is whether this ruling--delivered in the Federal District Court in Los Angeles--will act as a deterrent.To be sure, MySpace's win (see court order PDF) has some eye-popping figures (good luck collecting that sum).

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MySpace won statutory damages of more than $230 million against spammers Stanford Wallace and Walter Rines, but the big question is whether this ruling--delivered in the Federal District Court in Los Angeles--will act as a deterrent.

To be sure, MySpace's win (see court order PDF) has some eye-popping figures (good luck collecting that sum). Wallace and Rines worked together to create MySpace accounts, swipe passwords and then spam users. MySpace reckons that the duo sent as many as 735,925 messages. The award is the largest under the CAN-SPAM Act.

Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace's chief security officer, said in a statement:

“MySpace has zero tolerance for those who attempt to act illegally on our site.  The Federal District Court in Los Angeles awarded MySpace $233,777,500 under the federal CAN-SPAM Act and $1,500,000 under the California anti-phishing statute. User engagement is up 32 percent year over year while spam is significantly decreasing, proving efforts like this are working.  We thank the court for serving justice upon defendants Wallace and Rines and we remain committed to punishing those who violate the law and try to harm our members.”

The hope here is that this big award will act as a deterrent. However, that's unclear. Wallace and Rines obviously aren't taking the matter seriously. Both failed to show up for the court hearing. Meanwhile, Wallace, known as the Spam King, led a spam outfit called Cyber Promotions. He has lost lawsuits to ISPs and has wound up in a spyware case that led to a $4 million federal judgment against him in 2006, according to the Associated Press. Wallace has seen injunctions before yet the spam keeps coming.

Add it up and Wallace owes almost a quarter of a billion greenbacks. He doesn't seem to be sweating it much.

This award is a lot like those big NFL contracts with nice round numbers, say $60 million over 5 years. They make for great headlines, but the reality never matches the contract. The problem: Those contracts aren't guaranteed and most players don't collect the whole sum. In other words, MySpace's win makes for a nice headline, but until Wallace either pays up or lands in jail the risk-reward equation remains in his favor.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Security

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14 comments
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  • MySpace's big spam win: Will it really be a deterrent?

    I hope so. The only thing I get on myspace now is a bunch of spam.
    Loverock Davidson
  • Pass a law that would result in Wallace's execution...

    And I'd happily piss on his grave.
    jackbond
    • That's the only thing that will stop him....

      He's been Spamming since the early 1990's, and previous judgments against him have had no effect whatsoever.
      Hallowed are the Ori
  • OFF TOPIC ATTN: Larry

    Looks like yahoo should have taken Microsofts offer, they have been bought out (at least their stock has.)

    http://online.wsj.com:80/article/SB121071138552389339.html?mod=djemTEW
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Go back and read it again!

      Noone has "bought them out" or single-handedly purchased over fifty percent of the voting stock. You're as clueless here as you are on everything!
      JJQ1000
  • Seriously, make it a federal felony

    And he's already had his 3 strikes. I wouldn't shed a tear to see spammers and virus writers put to death. What a great deterrent that would be. Clearly the current punishments are not acting as a deterrent, so lets start getting medieval.
    jackbond
  • RE: MySpace's big spam win: Will it really be a deterrent?

    Off with his head! Death Penalty for spammers!
    johnigel@...
  • RE: MySpace's big spam win: Will it really be a deterrent?

    For all "spammers", take their left testicle and their first born. Help stop the bad seed.
    El Condor
  • What??

    So first thei build a site that is not spam proof, then they catch the spammers and there is no penalty against the spam leaks?

    Lets keep this in mind... Build a crappy service that "allows" spam. and in return get rich of the spammers over the backs of the unhappy users.

    Kinda funny isn't it?

    When do users get paid THEIR part. I wonder when google and hotmail pay to their users for all the spam they relayed. LOL.
    emenau
    • Not the crappy service's fault!

      Until we as a society embrace strong identification -- e.g. digital certificates which can reliably be traced back to an individual, we'll never see the end of spammers, and there's not a lot that services -- crappy or otherwise -- can do about it.

      But when spamming has real consequences that include losing one's ability to use the internet -- not just for nefarious purposes, but, say, to do one's banking, pay one's rent, buy groceries -- when the spammers find themselves excluded from digital society, to where not only can't they get their spam accepted anywhere, they can't even get their MONEY accepted ---

      well, when that day comes (if it comes), we'll see an end to this sort of behavior, and a rise in personal accountability in general.

      Now, I'm of two minds about whether (or how far) we SHOULD go that route. I'm not sure my ideal world would have no place for anonymity!

      But in 35 years of observation of online behavior, I have seen very little good come out of anonymity, compared to the great harm.

      Everyone from schoolyard bullies to faceless bureaucrats hide behind the knowledge that they won't have to take responsibility for their actions.

      On the other hand, I shouldn't have to be responsible to, say, Proctor and Gamble for my choice of laundry detergent! Or to some bible thumper for whether I choose to include a few gays in my circle of friends. Or to the FBI because I know some people from Iraq!

      But maybe if my identity would reveal that I'm the same person posting unhinged rants about the evils of the FBI, and buying large quantities of fertilizer and fuel oil -- that would be a good thing for society. Maybe me, too, depending on my plans!

      But I'm afraid we can't pin the responsibility on any one site here. I think we, society, have to come to grips with what measures are really needed to stop this sort of thing, and whether we can handle the consequences and responsibilities that would go with that decision.

      As for when users get paid their part? When users can set their own rules for accepting mail, including pay-to-play for advertisers, with recourse for misrepresentation.

      (It would be an ironic world indeed, when we have advertising-supported PEOPLE, not just web sites!)
      bob.kerns2
  • let the spammers rott. funny though: originally mysp was a spam provider

    itself.
    llval@...
  • RE: MySpace's big spam win: Will it really be a deterrent?

    Spam was one of the biggest complaints that I've heard about Myspace.

    I used to get emails from naked woman, so I put my profile as private and since then the spam has stopped.
    davinp
  • RE: MySpace's big spam win: Will it really be a deterrent?

    I am not in favor of more taxes, but why not tax the ISP's for Email traffic. 1 cent per email that is channeled through their connection. I am sure the ISP will self monitor those spammer's in a heart beat and you won't have to worry much longer about high volume spammers.
    kelsky
  • RE: MySpace's big spam win: Will it really be a deterrent?

    They need to toughen laws against Spammers. Maybe take the old Reagan approach with the War on Drugs. Haha bad analogy (considering it wasn't very effective) but they do need to create stricter laws.


    http://www.spyware-fix.net
    SpyKing