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Facebook wins record $873m fine against smut spammer

Junk mailer poked but unlikely to pay

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Facebook has won a $873m judgment against a Canadian sued for spamming users of the social networking site with "sexually explicit" messages after hacking into the profiles of its members.

Adam Guerbuez, of Montreal, who runs Atlantis Blue Capital and Ballervision.com, was ordered to pay exemplary damages by US District Judge Jeremy Fogel last Friday. Guerbuez did not contest the case, which also resulted in an injunction against him that effectively prevents him from accessing Facebook for any reason ever again.

The damages levied were high because Guerbuez was ruled to have have illegally accessed Facebook user profile data in order to mount his junk message campaign, using tactics that violated the US federal CAN-SPAM Act. Guerbuez allegedly bombarded Facebook users with four million messages punting male enhancement pills and other assorted tat. He tricked users into coughing up their login details using a variety of phishing tricks, then used these compromised profiles to bombard other users with invasive messages.

Social networking sites are becoming an increasingly commonplace medium for the distribution of junk mail messages. Earlier this year MySpace won a $230m judgment against notorious junk mailer Sanford 'Spamford' Wallace and Walter Rines. The Facebook ruling is the highest payout ever ordered under the CAN-SPAM Act.

Facebook have little hope recovering anything but a tiny fraction of the award but are still gunning for Guerbuez.

"It's unlikely that Geurbez and Atlantis Blue Capital could ever honor the judgment rendered against them (though we will certainly collect everything we can). But we are confident that this award represents a powerful deterrent to anyone and everyone who would seek to abuse Facebook and its users," said Max Kelly, Facebook's director of security, in a blog posting.

Court documents on the case can be found here. ®

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