MySpace Cashes in Spam to the Tune of $234 Million

MySpace — the social networking site raking in mountains of cash on the backs of indie bands and emo kids everywhere — has found a new way to fill their coffers: spam. No, they're not sending it, they're suing — and it's making them a bundle, at least on paper.

In what has been described as the largest anti-spam sanction to date, MySpace was granted a $234 million default judgment against two spammers alleged to have set up fraudulent MySpace accounts and stolen passwords in order to spam the site's users. MySpace placed the total messages sent at 735,925, including messages that directed users to advertising sites, traffic-based payment programs, sellers of cellphone ringtones, and even porn sites — a particular problem given MySpace's popularity among high school students. The lawsuit, which the spammers — identified as Sanford Wallace and Walter Rines — failed to answer, was based on the U.S.'s CAN-SPAM Act, a fairly recent law which made the sending of unsolicited bulk email a sue-able offense; the company was able to collect $100 for each spam message, totaling a whopping $157.4 million. Also included were another $63.4 million from Rines, as well as $9.2 million more against the pair for violation of other CAN-SPAM sections, state laws, and accumulated legal fees.

Though the security chief for MySpace is busy proclaiming the case a deterrent to future spammers, it does have one downside: They'll likely never see a cent. Because the judgments are defaults — meaning the plaintiff won because the defendant was MIA — the likelihood is that MySpace doesn't even have an address for the pair. Unless MySpace can find them — and find them with something to collect — the best they'll ever get from the decision is the satisfaction of having won.

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