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Microsoft has fired off nine new lawsuits against spammers including an action against a web hosting firm that allegedly offered so-called "bullet proof" hosting to junk mailers.

National Online Sales and its owner Levon Gillespie are jointly accused of offering a "safe haven" for purveyors of get-rich-quick schemes and penis enlargement rackets. The case was filed in Washington State's King County Superior Court.

Microsoft attorney Aaron Kornblum told Reuters that the web host offered to send email and host sites through servers based in China. "This is the first action against a Web host catering to spammers. They're providing a safe place for spammers to drive customers to," he said.

Neither Gillespie nor National Online Sales has responded so far to the accusations.

Suppliers of so-called "bullet-proof" services claim that they can't be shut down as a result of complaints. In reality, such services are usually closed within days as the escalation of complaints to upstream providers forces ISPs to close down sources of spam - or risk being kicked off the net themselves. In any case, the trade is probably on the wane. Anti-spam organisations, such as Spamhaus, are increasingly winning converts in the Chinese ISP community with their argument that local hosts shouldn't offer such slimy services.

With the latest batch of lawsuits, Microsoft is involved in 100 spam cases around the world, of which 70 are in the US. Kornblum told Reuters that Microsoft is using litigation to make it costlier and more difficult for spammers to stay in business. ®

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