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The US's biggest internet companies have launched yet another crackdown against spammers as part of their latest efforts to protect net users from junk email. AOL, Earthlink, Microsoft and Yahoo! filed lawsuits against dozens of people yesterday in federal courts under US "Can-Spam" anti-spam legislation as part of their on-going war against this scourge of the internet.

AOL filed lawsuits against 20 "John Does" accused of sending "SPIM" - spam instant messages - while another court action dealt with spammers peddling prescription drugs. Some of the actions were prompted following complaints from AOL's users in Canada and Europe.

"These lawsuits demonstrate that AOL's assault on spammers on behalf of our members continues unabated. AOL and our members continue to make spam-fighting a priority, and 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," said Randall Boe, General Counsel of AOL.

He went on: "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, such as Europe or Canada, or pursuing spammers who are advertising dangerous drugs. Popping a pill prescribed by a spammer is akin to online 'Russian roulette' or online trick-or-treating - you never know what you're going to get, and it could end up being more than just a scary trick."

Yahoo! filed a lawsuit against "East Coast Exotics Entertainment Group, Inc." and "Epoth LLC" for sending sexually-explicit spam to its email users. Yahoo! general counsel Mike Callahan said that the internet giant was "holding spammers directly accountable for unlawfully disguising their identity and using this practice to deceive e-mail users".

EarthLink's lawsuits against numerous "John Does" targeted those flogging prescription drugs and low-rate mortgages. Microsoft's sweep also included spammers punting herbal growth supplements and get-rich-quick schemes which all breach the US's CAN-SPAM federal law.

This is the second time that AOL, Earthlink, Microsoft and Yahoo! - aka the Anti-Spam Alliance - have taken legal action against spammers. In March they filed six lawsuits against hundreds of defendants including people suspected of being among the US's most prolific spammers. ®

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