MySpace Slaps Spam King with MySpam Suit

MySpace has filed suit against notorious spammer Scott Richter and alleged cohorts for sending what could become known as MySpam. Yesterday, the Fox Interactive Media site filed a complaint in a U.S. District Court demanding a jury trial against Richter’s for sending spam messages disguised as communications from members to other MySpace members. The suit is another reminder of the ongoing corrosion of social media sites by spam and marketing exploitation.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in the Central District of California, claims Richter-run operations OptInRealBig.com, CPA Empire.com, and Media Breakaway arranged for millions of MySpace bulletins to be sent through its system between July and December of last year. MySpace bulletins are messages sent from one user to all users in her friends list. A Media Breakaway spokesperson told ClickZ News the firm had no comment regarding the case.

MySpace, which has over 140 million members, is hoping for a permanent injunction barring Richter and his affiliated firms from the site, in addition to unspecified monetary damages. No one at MySpace was available for comment yesterday.

In addition to claiming breach of contract and unfair competition, MySpace specifically charges the defendants violated The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, The CAN-SPAM Act, The Electronic Communications Privacy Act and California’s Anti-Spam Statute.

The result: delivery of spam messages promoting things like free ringtones, Lacoste polo shirts, and T-Mobile Sidekick 3 devices. The social networking site claims the phony messages were sent by the defendants, who gathered log-ins and passwords of MySpace users through phishing attempts or third-party lists, and employed scripts to log in to those accounts and send spam. The claim also charges the defendants with promotion of false and misleading information for commercial or unlawful purposes and attempting to impersonate members.

Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus, said the lawsuit will serve to set an example to other misbehavers. What he called the MySpace “underbelly” is “something they’re going to have to address,” he added. Deep Focus has placed paid marketing campaigns on MySpace to promote client projects including HBO’s “Entourage.”

The alleged spam has and continues to cause the site irreparable harm, noted the claim, which stated “the amount of harm would be extremely difficult to ascertain.” In a separate portion of the claim, the plaintiff notes violation of The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in particular resulted in a loss totaling at least $5,000.

From social news site Digg to free classifieds site Craigslist, to countless blogs, CGM-fueled sites are falling prey to excessive marketing messages, spam, and system gaming, all of which could serve to devalue the sites in the eyes of users and advertisers alike. Even legitimate marketers may be contributing to MySpace’s worsening commercialized condition, said Schafer, who said software and services allowing marketers to send friend requests to specific target audiences, such as 18-24 year-old males, are available. Marketers set up free profiles for everything from films to consumer packaged goods products on MySpace, and may be tempted to use such technologies to easily obtain an impressive list of “friends.”

“At the end of the day, it’s spam just like anything else,” he said. “For an ad agency it might be a quick solution,” but, he continued, “it is probably harmful for the brand.”

The MySpace claim also alleges co-conspirators Marat Nigmatzyanov, Yevgeniy Leschinskiy and other unnamed collaborators participated in spam-related violations.

In 2004, Richter, a self-proclaimed “Spam King,” and his firm OptInRealBig.com reached a settlement with then New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in relation to a spam-related suit. OptinRealBig.com filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2005.

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