AOL, EarthLink, Microsoft, Yahoo Tag Team On Antispam Suits

At a press conference and Webcast in New York on Wednesday, representives from the four companies said the alleged spammers have caused millions of dollars in damages and jammed consumer e-mail boxes.

"Spam has become the largest customer problem. It affects all of us in the industry and all of us in this room," said Randall Boe, executive vice president and general counsel for AOL. "We've worked together and combined our investigative resources to track and find spammers and pursue them," Boe said.

The four companies, which have already sued spammers in state courts, said the three-month-old federal CAN SPAM legislation gives them another weapon in their arsenal.

"We are collectively turning on the power of the CAN SPAM Act, taking legal action against those who have behaved recklessly and jeopardized the Internet as a communications tool," said Nancy Anderson, deputy general counsel at Microsoft.

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The federal legislation "puts teeth" into enforcement by prohibiting spammers from concealing the origin of their mail or promulgating it through open proxies and false registrations, the company officials said.

AOL, EarthLink, Microsoft and Yahoo--which formed an antispam alliance last April--are using CAN SPAM to pursue bulk e-mailers. Specifically, AOL is suing Davis Wolfgang Hawke (aka Dave Bridger), Braden Bournival and unknown "John Does" for messages sent since July 1, 2003. AOL alleges that Hawke offered to sell illegal spam-related goods and services, including hundreds of free proxies to affiliates and "bulk-friendly hosting" on servers outside the United States.

EarthLink sued some 25 John Does peddling prescription drugs, mortgages, diplomas and get-rich-quick schemes via e-mail. Microsoft sued JDO Media of Florida for barraging Hotmail users with unsolicited marketing messages. Microsoft charges that the spam goes out under false header information and disguises senders' identities in violation of the CAN SPAM Act, which was passed in January.

Microsoft is also suing John Does doing business as the Super Viagra Group. Yahoo launched its action against Eric Head, Matthew Head and Barry Head and their companies Gold Disk Canada, Head Programming and Infinite Technologies Worldwide, collectively known as The Head Operation. Yahoo alleges that it received 94 million messages from The Head Operation in January 2004 alone.