Judge Awards $873M Fine for Spamming Facebook
By Chloe Albanesius and SiteApproved
Note to self: do not spam Facebook.
A Canadian citizen was slapped with an $873 million fine Friday for sending approximately 4 million spam e-mail messages to Facebook users – the largest judgment ever handed down for a violation of the federal CAN-SPAM Act.
In March and April 2008, Adam Guerbuez and his company, Atlantic Blue Capital, used Facebook login information obtained through phishing schemes and third parties to send spam advertisements for marijuana, male enhancement drugs, and sexually oriented material to users' Facebook "Walls" and e-mail inboxes.
The messages would appear to be from a user's friend, but were actually placed there by autobots controlled by Guerbuez. Facebook sued Guerbuez in U.S. District Court for Northern California in August. "The voluminous and illicit nature of defendants' advertisements has tainted the Facebook experience for affected Facebook users," Facebook wrote in its initial complaint. Facebook also said it lost money monitoring, reviewing and attempting to prevent similar spam e-mail and wall posts – about $5,000 in a year.
Judge Jeremy Fogel did not elaborate on how he reached the $873 million total, which includes about $437 million for statutory damages and $437 million for aggravated statutory damages, but the CAN-SPAM Act allows for damages of up to $11,000 per violation. The fines were was doubled because of aggravated circumstances, a Facebook spokesman said. Guerbuez will also be responsible for attorneys' fees and costs, a number to be determined no later than December 12, according to the decision.
"Does Facebook expect to quickly collect $873 million and share the proceeds in some way with our users? Alas, no. It's unlikely that Guerbuez and Atlantis Blue Capital could ever honor the judgment rendered against them - though we will certainly collect everything we can," Max Kelly, Facebook's director of security, wrote in a Monday blog post. "But we are confident that this award represents a powerful deterrent to anyone and everyone who would seek to abuse Facebook and its users."
Guerbuez was also banned from accessing Facebook or from asking others to access Facebook on his behalf.
The CAN-SPAM Act, which went into effect in 2004, requires businesses to identify unsolicited e-mail as an advertisement and include contact information in the body of the e-mail so that consumers can opt-out of receiving future messages.
Guerbuez's actions were a blatant violation of these provisions, according to Facebook.
This is another excellent reminder to any and all individuals, groups, companies, or any identities who continue to spam, YOU WILL BE FOUND, CHARGED, AND PROSECUTED.