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Facebook wins $873-million judgment against spammer

SpamFacebook has struck back against spammers, winning an $873-million judgment against a Canadian man whom the popular social networking site accused of sending millions of unsolicited messages about drugs and sex.

Facebook accused Adam Guerbuez of tricking its members into revealing their passwords to send out messages. Guerbuez did not appear in court to defend himself, Facebook said, although the company says it has video of Guerbuez being served.

San Jose federal court judge Jeremy Fogel signed the default judgment Friday. Facebook filed the lawsuit against Guerbuez of Montreal and his business, Atlantis Blue Capital, in August. Guerbuez could not be reached for comment.

In a statement, the Palo Alto company called the judgment the largest under the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM).

The company also said it would be unlikely to collect ...

... the entire judgment but said it represents a "powerful deterrent."

Facebook said it continues to devote significant resources to combating spam. But social networks are increasingly being targeted. And the legal fights are difficult to wage as spammers rarely show up in court and are often hard to locate. So social networks are borrowing a strategy from big Internet companies such as AOL and Microsoft, which waged high-profile legal battles to send a message. AOL once raffled off a Porsche it received in a settlement to draw attention to its efforts.

Last May, MySpace won a $230-million default judgment against Sanford "Spamford" Wallace and a business partner. In June, it got a $6-million settlement from Scott Richter whose company, Media Breakaway, allegedly sent unwanted ads to users.

Sam O'Rourke, senior counsel at Facebook, said this is the first major spam case the company has filed. But it will not be the last.

"We're definitely in this to deter people," O'Rourke said. "We would like to have the message out there to spammers that we are not going to sit by and let them have that activity on our sites that is illegal and annoying to our users."

To that end, Facebook has hired lawyers in Canada to enforce the judgment against Guerbuez and locate his assets, O'Rourke said. "We want to make it clear that we are not just doing this for the PR value," he said.

-- Jessica Guynn

Photo: Cans of Spam line the shelves at a store in Berlin, Vt. Credit: Toby Talbot / Associated Press

 
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