Alleged Spammer Sues Accuser

Matt O'Conner
FARGO, N.D. – A man accused of flooding Usenet groups with thousands of sexually explicit spam messages is suing his accuser for defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional interference with a business.

Ed Falk, a California computer programmer who operates a website devoted to exposing spam abuses, alleges that Jerry Reynolds once ran the largest porn spam operation on the Internet on behalf of the now-defunct website Sexzilla.com.

“As far as I know, he was, at his peak, the worst spammer on the Internet, and I think it was almost all porn,” Falk told a Fargo newspaper.

Reynolds denies any connections to the spam operation, and his attorney this week filed a lawsuit on behalf of John Doe in Cass County District Court seeking damages from Falk for publishing “misleading information” that was harmful to the unnamed plaintiff’s business and reputation.

Falk said there is little doubt in his mind who John Doe is. Reynolds had twice demanded, through his attorney, that Falk retract the accusatory language from his site and threatened legal action if Falk did not comply.

Falk said the ordeal began in 1994, when newsgroups he frequented started receiving thousands of unsolicited messages that crowded out users and made genuine discussion nearly impossible. With the help of another anti-spam activist, David Ritz, Falk claimed he traced many of the messages back to an adult site called Sexzilla.com. The site, they said, was responsible for up to 25 percent of all spam coming into Usenet.

Further investigation showed that Reynolds was listed as the administrative and technical contact for Sexzilla.com. But Reynolds has always denied any connection to the website, and John Doe’s complaint asserts the plaintiff never had any ownership interest in the site.

Still, Falk stands by his claims.

“In my mind, there was no question that Jerry Reynolds was Sexzilla.com,” Falk said.

In January, a New Hampshire-based company filed a similar lawsuit against a man whose spam allegations cost the company its accounts with several ISPs. The case has not yet gone to trial.