Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Facebook Wins $873 Million Lawsuit Against Spammer

Spammer remains on the lam, but courts hope big award will scare others

Social networking site Facebook today won an $873 million court judgment against a spammer who has been routinely deluging the site with sales pitches and sexually explicit messages.

According to an Associated Press report, the judgment against Adam Guerbuez of Montreal is the largest ever awarded under the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act. The award is more than three times as much as Facebook will gross in revenue this year.

Facebook doesn't expect to collect the money; the report states that Guerbuez has been "difficult to find" since he was sued in August. But social networking sites are hoping that such a large judgment will deter other spammers from abusing their sites.

"Everyone who participates constructively in Facebook should feel confident that we are fighting hard to protect you against spam and other online nuisances," said Max Kelly, Facebook's director of security, on the company's blog yesterday.

The judgment isn't the first victory that the social networking sites have had against spammers. In May, MySpace won a $230 million default judgment against Sanford "Spamford" Wallace and a business partner. In June, MySpace received a $6 million settlement from Scott Richter, whose company, Media Breakaway, allegedly sent unwanted ads to users. In both cases, the spammers were also "difficult to find."

The lawyers who prosecute such cases are hopeful that the defendants will eventually be found and made to pay something against the awarded damages. But most legal experts agree that such large judgments are mainly a public relations effort designed to demonstrate that both the social networking sites and the courts are serious about doing something to stop spam.

"It's essentially letting the world know you're tough about this and creating some deterrents," said Eric Sinrod, a partner at Duane Morris in San Francisco, in an interview earlier this year.

But other legal experts say the judgments only serve to push the spammers further underground. Most spammers choose not to contest the lawsuits -- which is one reason why the judgments against them keep getting bigger -- and they can easily evade payment by simply setting up shop in another country, where they may be difficult to find and extradite to the U.S.

Still, social networking sites may have one legal weapon that hasn't been available in other CAN-SPAM lawsuits -- a contract. To participate in Facebook or MySpace, a user must agree to abide by the system's rules and practices. And if the courts can prove that a spammer has violated that contract, it may be much more difficult for spammers to wiggle out of judgments against them, the experts say.

The suit against Guerbuez accused him not only of violating laws against spam, but of breach of contract as well, which is one reason why Facebook was able to get such a huge award, the experts say. Violation of the CAN-SPAM Act alone carries a penalty of just $100 per incident -- triple that if it's done on purpose.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Inside the Ransomware Campaigns Targeting Exchange Servers
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/2/2021
Beyond MITRE ATT&CK: The Case for a New Cyber Kill Chain
Rik Turner, Principal Analyst, Infrastructure Solutions, Omdia,  3/30/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-17
The overlayfs implementation in the linux kernel did not properly validate with respect to user namespaces the setting of file capabilities on files in an underlying file system. Due to the combination of unprivileged user namespaces along with a patch carried in the Ubuntu kernel to allow unprivile...
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-17
Shiftfs, an out-of-tree stacking file system included in Ubuntu Linux kernels, did not properly handle faults occurring during copy_from_user() correctly. These could lead to either a double-free situation or memory not being freed at all. An attacker could use this to cause a denial of service (ker...
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-17
A command injection vulnerability has been reported to affect QTS and QuTS hero. If exploited, this vulnerability allows attackers to execute arbitrary commands in a compromised application. We have already fixed this vulnerability in the following versions: QTS Build 20210202 and later Q...
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-17
An SQL injection vulnerability has been reported to affect QNAP NAS running Multimedia Console or the Media Streaming add-on. If exploited, the vulnerability allows remote attackers to obtain application information. QNAP has already fixed this vulnerability in the following versions of Multimedia C...
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-16
jose-node-esm-runtime is an npm package which provides a number of cryptographic functions. In versions prior to 3.11.4 the AES_CBC_HMAC_SHA2 Algorithm (A128CBC-HS256, A192CBC-HS384, A256CBC-HS512) decryption would always execute both HMAC tag verification and CBC decryption, if either failed `JWEDe...