AOL, Earthlink Sue Spammers

Tina Reilly
ATLANTA, Georgia – Earthlink and America Online took an aggressive stand against spam this week by re-filing lawsuits against more than a dozen of the most notorious spammers and mass marketers in cyberspace, the two companies announced jointly.

Filling the gap that many critics say has been left wide open since the federal government passed the Can-Spam Act of 2004, the two Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have managed to track down numerous spammers that have otherwise eluded the FBI and some of the more active email security companies.

"This lawsuit demonstrates AOL's strong and ongoing commitment to the fight against spam," said Randall Boe, general counsel for AOL. "We will pursue spammers, their accomplices, their co-conspirators, and anyone who operates on their behalf - no matter where they live. The bottom line is, if you are spamming AOL members - or helping someone who is - we will find you, and we will stop you."

The two ISPs claim to have focused on spammers and email solicitors who use some of the most leading edge technology and in many cases have proven invincible to capture.

The two ISPs filed similar lawsuits last year, but both companies were unable to provide enough evidence that the spammers had caused "sufficient damages," and the cases were thrown out.

Only two months into the new Can-Spam law, Washington agencies have so far failed to file criminal charges against a single spammer and many email recipients feel the amount of spam has increased exponentially since the government put the kibosh on more stringent spam laws that might have more effectively stemmed the tide of unsolicited email.

According to the Washington Post, Earthlink is suing members of a spam ring comprised of individuals and companies allegedly responsible for sending out an estimated 250 million spam emails. The group is referred to as the "Alabama Spammers" and members are based in Florida, California, Tennessee, Michigan, and Nevada.

The members of the Alabama Spammers were allegedly soliciting offers for Viagra, adult dating services, and in some cases facilitating identity fraud against Earthlink subscribers.

On the same front, AOL is pursuing litigation against a Florida-based couple and another Floridian with dealings in Thailand with two Americans. The four-person spam operation allegedly targeted AOL subscribers with a slew of fake mortgage ads and a software program claiming to circumvent AOL's spam filtering program.

AOL filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division alleging violations of the Virginia Computer Crimes Act, the Federal Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, and State of Florida Common Law.

The defendants are accused of sending an estimated 35 million spam emails and eliciting millions of complaints from AOL users, the Washington Post reports. AOL is reportedly seeking $1.6 million in damages.

Among mounds of evidence against the alleged spammers, AOL claims to have traced copies of instant messages in which the spammers admitted to their own wrongdoing and fear of arrest.