Facebook Takes Spammers to Court

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Facebook this week said it filed a trio of lawsuits against two people and one company that it alleges used the social networking site as a playground for deceptive spam campaigns that attempted to con users into passing on more spam to their network of friends.

The lawsuits, filed in U.S. federal court in San Jose, Calif., claim two men, Steven Richter and Jason Swan, both of Long Island, N.Y., and Max Bounty Inc., based in Canada, attempted to trick people into signing up for mobile subscriptions and sending spam to their friends.

"In three separate complaints, we allege that Steven Richter, Jason Swan, and Max Bounty, Inc. used Facebook to offer enticing, but non-existent products and services," Facebook's security team said in a blog post.

All three parties are charged with violations of the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM), and other state and federal laws.

This is hardly the first time Facebook, which boasts more than 500 million registered users, has struck back at spammers and phishers.

In October 2009, Facebook secured a $711 million judgment against Sanford Wallace, the self-proclaimed "Spam King," after he used the site to repeatedly violated the Federal Trade Commission's CAN-SPAM Act. It also garnered an $873 million award in a similar case against Adam Guerbuez and Atlantis Blue Capital back in 2008.

Facebook officials claim Richter and Swan constructed at least 70 different fake profiles and built multiple applications as part of an elaborate affiliate marketing and advertising scam that asked users to spam their friends or sign up for non-existent mobile phone subscription services.

Max Bounty Inc, according to the complaint, misappropriated Facebook's logo and used deceptive marketing techniques promising free gift cards, iPads, and other goods in return for perpetuating the spam campaign.

Facebook officials said the crackdown will continue as more illegal phishing and spam campaigns are unearthed by both the company and its extensive user community.

"Stay tuned as our push against spammers and scammers escalates over the next month, year and beyond," the post from Facebook today read. "We have other actions pending, and there will be more to come."

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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