Commerce / Auctions
America Online's Crusade Against Spam
- The Cyber Promotions Case
- In early 1995, Cyber Promotions goes into business as Promo
Enterprises to deliver bulk e-mail advertisements.
- In February of 1996, in response to the bulk e-mail sent to its
users by Cyber Promotions, America Online collects all of the
undeliverable bulk e-mails and sends them back en masse to Cyber
Promotions, crashing their provider.
- On April 8, 1996, America Online sues Cyber Promotions.
- On October 7, 1997, Cyber Promotions sues America Online.
- Cyber Promotions appeals, and the cases are consolidated into one
- The settlement
they reach says that Cyber Promotions can still send junk e-mail to
America Online users, but must use only a limited number of domain
names so that America Online's default spam filter will delete them.
However, America Online is forced to periodically remind it's users
they are currently blocking known spammers, and can choose to remove
the filter if they so choose. Both sides claim victory.
- The Over the Air Equipment Case
- In early 1997, Over the Air Equipment sends out bulk e-mail to
America Online members advertising pornography sites.
- To avoid America Online's spam filters, Over the Air Equipment
forges e-mail headers, counterfeiting route information, and even uses
America Online's trademark to appear that the advertised site was
America Online approved.
- America Online make ask them repeatedly to stop spamming.
- After the e-mail continues, on October 2, 1997, America Online
sues Over the Air Equipment.
- In the ruling,
Over the Air Equipment is barred from sending junk e-mail to America
Online members and is forced to pay America Online a large sum.
The Canter-Siegel case: abuse of bulletin boards.
- The Christian Brothers Case
- Beginning in 1997, the Christian Brothers begin to illegally
obtain America Online e-mail addresses, and eventually send out more
than 20 million e-mails advertising apricot seeds as a cure for
cancer, fraudulently using America Online's trademark.
- In February of 1998, America Online sends the Christian Brothers a
- The spamming continues, so on December 18, 1998, America Online sues
the Christian Brothers and their president, Jason Vale.
- The ruling,
brought down in , barres the Christian Brothers from sending any
further e-mails to America Online members, and forces them to pay
America Online over $600,00 in damages.
- Other Cases
Jeff Slaton case: another abuser
Electronic countermeasures were developed to defend against spamming:
- Profligate cross-posting leads to an avalanche of protests.
- On April 12, 1994, two Phoenix lawyers posted a message to almost
all Internet newsgroups.
- In response, they were deluged with complaints.
- E-mail messages, fax attacks, phantom phone beeper, threats.
- But they also received a lot of business.
- Their Internet access provider, Internet
Direct, Inc. (search on Jeff Wheelhouse), of Phoenix, cancelled
- However, Canter theatened a $250,000 lawsuit against Internet
Direct, claiming that is how much business they would lose
- Canter & Siegel agreed with their service provider, PSI, to
stop spamming the net.
- February 12, 1995, PSI cancelled
thier account after more spams.
- Earlier, Canter and Siegel had been in legal trouble.
- Their law licenses were suspended in 1987 by the state bar
associations of FL
- for conduct that the FL Supreme Court deemed "contrary to
- They resigned from the FL bar in 1988 rather than fight
subsequent allegations of neglect and misappropriation of client
- Canter & Siegel continue their advertising on the Internet,
- March 1st, 1995, Canter & Siegel wrote a book outlining
their advertising methods, How
to Make a Fortune on the Information Superhighway.
Other countermeasures are employed:
Some of the ethical questions raised by these cases:
are programs written to remove offending posts.
- Many of the people who control the programs remain anonymous.
- The most famous spam canceller, CancelMoose, has been considered
the Wyatt Earp of
the Internet(search on 'Cancelmoose') by the majority of Usenet
denizens. He has also been accused of censorship.
which connects all sites running this software to a main site which can
monitor for spamming and alert all sites.
kill files allow you to filter out unwanted articles.
bombs is a common response to spammers by the Usenet denizans.
- Is spamming a form of free speech or should it be prohibited?
- If spam is going to be removed from the newsgroups, who decides what
messages are spam?
- Should the government step in?
- Are the denizans of the Internet justified in their responses to