October 29, 2004, 12:00 AM

First it was spammers; now it’s “spimmers” facing lawsuits

Taking the battle against e-mail spam to the world of instant messaging, AOL has filed its first lawsuit targeting people who send large volumes of unsolicited messages to consumers through AOL’s instant messaging service and online chat rooms.

Taking the battle against e-mail spam to the world of instant messaging, America Online Inc. has filed its first lawsuit targeting people who send large volumes of unsolicited instant messages, or “spim,” to consumers through AOL’s instant messaging service and online chat rooms.

AOL cited 20 John Does as defendants in the spim case, which it announced yesterday. It also announced a second lawsuit against 10 John Does accused of sending e-mail spam, the first AOL action taken against defendants accused of peddling pharmaceuticals available only through a doctor’s prescription.

AOL filed both of its lawsuits in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, VA. It brought the actions under the federal CAN-Spam Act, the Virginia anti-spam laws and state common law. It says the actions were based on more than 2 million complaints from AOL members worldwide and hundreds of millions of spam e-mails.

“We continue to use the legal process on their behalf to help put a lid on the worst, most active spammers-no matter where they are, or how they send their unwanted junk," says Randall Boe, executive vice president and general counsel. "This means pursuing spammers who are either using new platforms, such as instant messaging or chat rooms, or those who are peddling junk to our members abroad.”

In other legal actions announced yesterday, Microsoft Corp., EarthLink Inc. and Yahoo Inc. filed a total of five lawsuits charging numerous defendants with sending deceptive e-mail in violation of the federal CAN-Spam Act. Yahoo’s lawsuit was the only one to name defendants: East Coast Exotics Entertainment Group Inc. and Epoth LLC. Citing CAN-Spam, the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the California Computer Crime Statute and civil conspiracy law, it accused the two organizations of disguising their identities and designing messages to circumvent spam filters. Efforts to reach East Coast Exotics Entertainment and Epoth for comment were unsuccessful. Yahoo believes the two companies are based in New Jersey but has yet to identify exact addresses for them, a spokeswoman says.

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