A group of the largest US email providers filed six joint lawsuits against hundreds of spammers yesterday in a rare moment of corporate cooperation. AOL, EarthLink, Microsoft, and Yahoo! filed the suits under the recently enacted Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act of 2003, accusing major spammers in California, Virginia, and Washington of misleading consumers and illegally sending unsolicited email.
"We are trying to find the biggest, the baddest, and the most notorious \[spammers\]," Randall Boe, AOL executive vice president and general counsel, said. "When we work together, it helps us find the most high-impact defendants. Congress gave us the necessary tools to pursue spammers with stiff penalties, and we in the industry didn't waste a moment moving with speed and resolve to take advantage of the new law."
The lawsuits identified several individuals and companies, but 165 John Doe defendants make up the bulk of the defendants. The email providers say that all these spammers are among the worst offenders in the country and are responsible for massive unsolicited email campaigns. Each defendant faces a potential fine of $6 million and as many as 5 days in jail, although legal experts say those penalties are unlikely to be awarded.
Although yesterday's lawsuits aren't the first filed under the CAN-SPAM Act, they certainly are the most far-reaching. Critics have charged that the CAN-SPAM Act is a weak and ineffective response to spam, but this week's suits could prove otherwise.