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Spam Social Networks The Internet

Facebook Wins $873 Million Lawsuit Against Spammer 128

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the also-my-uncle-has-some-free-money-for-you dept.
damn_registrars writes "A US District judge has awarded $873 million dollars to Facebook in a default judgment against a spammer who sent messages to Facebook users about drugs and sex. This is the highest award so far in a civil suit under the CAN-SPAM Act."
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Facebook Wins $873 Million Lawsuit Against Spammer

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  • by onion2k (203094) * on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:21PM (#25878993) Homepage

    The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company predicted the judgment will be difficult to collect, but is hoping that its size discourages future abuses at its site.

    Except it won't. It's too much. Basic psychology dictates that once you get above a certain risk people will start to ignore it because there's no difference between that and "everything". For people who don't have a great deal to start with losing everything isn't that big a deal. An amount that's a real tangible quantity that someone could conceivably earn is actually a bigger discouragement because people can imagine losing it, and that will put them off because if they can imagine themselves earning it they can envisage themselves losing it.

    I'm not suggesting that it should have been any lower of course. I just think we need to be pragmatic about what a punishment is. If we want it to be something that puts other people off doing the same thing then we could think up something better.

    • by DogDude (805747) on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:25PM (#25879053) Homepage
      In the business world, it's simple. Shut down the corporation, and start another. It's too big to even consider paying, so the company that is being sued will just fold. That's why bars don't get insurance, generally: it's too expensive, and if something goes wrong, it's too expensive to deal with, so the bar's corporation just goes away, and it will generally re-launch under "new ownership". Happens every day.
      • by SpeedyDX (1014595) <speedyphoenix@NOSPAm.gmail.com> on Monday November 24, 2008 @08:02PM (#25879405)

        TFA specifically stated that the suit was filed "against Adam Guerbuez of Montreal and his business." Not having read the actual case file, I'm just going to assume that Facebook did file a suit against both Guerbuez AND his business. In such a case, I don't know if he can just hide behind his corporation (if it is incorporated).

        IIRC, in Canada, if you are ordered to pay damages, the court order is permanent until you manage to pay it off or you die. The order survives through bankruptcy, so you can't just declare and have it magically wiped away. Does anyone know whether the U.S. has a similar system?

        • by CodeBuster (516420) on Monday November 24, 2008 @08:36PM (#25879675)
          In the United States, the effect of a bankruptcy discharge is to eliminate only the debtor's personal liability and not the in rem liability for a secured debt to the extent of the value of collateral (i.e. they can generally seize personal property pledged as collateral for debts subject to a few exceptions such as one's primary residence and retirement accounts which cannot be seized). Certain taxes owed to the Federal, state, or local governments, government guaranteed student loans, and child support obligations cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. However, from what I understand (IANAL) depending upon the filling, Chapter 11 or Chapter 7 (which is much harder to file now because of recent revisions to US bankruptcy law sponsored by credit card companies), any unsecured personal debts, except those described above, are discharged and secured creditors get the collateral that was pledged and that debt is discharged. Court judgments, with the exception of child support payments which are a special case, are by definition unsecured debts and so they probably would be discharged in a Chapter 7 (or possibly even a Chapter 11, subject to partial payment) bankruptcy, but again IANAL and courts sometimes legally define things in ways that are different from the rest of society.
          • by Kent Recal (714863) on Monday November 24, 2008 @08:48PM (#25879777)

            You, Sir, are now my official in rem collateral discharged child support super-hero!
            Oh and IANAL but I don't belive that YANAL.

            • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

              by Hoi Polloi (522990)

              Oh and IANAL but I don't belive that YANAL.

              You are right, I don't ANAL but I correctly guessed that you ANAL.

            • Oh and IANAL but I don't belive that YANAL.

              I can believe he isn't a lawyer. Most laywers would add a tagline to a post like that claiming this should "not be considered legal advice." My brother-in-law (who is a lawyer) does that every time we discuss anything legal, since he isn't licensed in my state.

              A real lawyer covers his/her ass!

          • by Kawahee (901497) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:26PM (#25881135) Homepage Journal

            Holy shit, my brain.

          • by infinite9 (319274)

            Chapter 7 (which is much harder to file now because of recent revisions to US bankruptcy law sponsored by credit card companies)

            Chapter 7s are still quite easy to get. They've just added the means test. If your income is above the median income for your area, you're forced into chapter 13. (11 is for corporations) This is no problem at all though. All you have to do is engineer a job loss. Then you have no income. Of course, you'll have a hard time paying your bills without a job, which is probably

          • by tehcyder (746570)

            In the United States, the effect of a bankruptcy discharge is to eliminate only the debtor's personal liability and not the in rem liability for a secured debt to the extent of the value of collateral (i.e. they can generally seize personal property pledged as collateral for debts subject to a few exceptions such as one's primary residence and retirement accounts which cannot be seized). Certain taxes owed to the Federal, state, or local governments, government guaranteed student loans, and child support ob

        • IIRC, in Canada, if you are ordered to pay damages, the court order is permanent until you manage to pay it off or you die. The order survives through bankruptcy, so you can't just declare and have it magically wiped away. Does anyone know whether the U.S. has a similar system?

          Mmmm not quite. If you go bankrupt, all your debs go away.... except!... debs to the government of course :) There are other problem after that anyway, like getting your credit back...

        • You know this does not apply for incorporated businesses...right,right!!!!

    • by Itninja (937614) on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:33PM (#25879139) Homepage
      I hate spammers. I think the punishment should be really cruel...hang on my lawyers telling me something....really? Fine. Well then it should at least be something really unusual. That will stop these spam...wait...what? DAMMIT!
      • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:56PM (#25881367) Homepage

        i found a loophole! the constitution only prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment." therefore, if you call it a prize/reward instead of a punishment, then you can make it as cruel and unusual as you want! right?

        congratulations Mr. Guerbuez,
        you have been selected as the winner of the Philip Lemarchand [wikipedia.org] Puzzle Box Sweepstakes. as the grand prize recipient, you are being granted the once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the full gamut of hedonistic pleasures that the Lament Configuration [wikipedia.org] has to offer. so get ready, because we are sending you on an all-expenses-paid vacation for one through the dimensional Schism [wikipedia.org] to visit all of your favorite Cenobites [wikipedia.org].

        here's what you can expect from this all-inclusive vacation of unspeakable horrors(TM):

        • upon stepping through the Schism, our patented skin hooks will be the first to welcome you to this dimension of endless pain & suffering.*
        • have a free laryngectomy [wikipedia.org] on the house. this way no one will hear your screams of ecstasy as you enjoy our world-class sadomasochistic spa treatment. (it also greatly reduces the number of noise complaints we receive.)
        • our steam saunas are the hottest in the world, kept constant at a balmy 800 F.
        • amputations, castration, full lobotomy, etc.--all performed while you are fully awake. our bio-regenerative technology ensures that you will never run out of limbs or organs to have remove, so you can enjoy being mutilated again and again as our dedicated hierophants slow blur the line between pain and pleasure.
        • forget exfoliating with chemical peels or microdermabrasion, our Surgeons from Beyond specialize in decortication using _macro_dermabrasion techniques--they will literally skin you alive. prepare to get flayed!
        • an eternity of torture delivered by the Theologians of the Order of the Gash (Pinhead [wikipedia.org], Sister Nikoletta [flixster.com], Butterball [flixster.com], Chatterer [fotbollsutveckling.se], and Moby [wikipedia.org]).

        * - comes with a free face-lift.

        disclaimer: all prizes are final and mandatory. extradimensional vacations not redeemable for cash and no substitutes are allowed. limited time offer expires 01/01/2012.

        • Excellent plan, but there may be another loophole if that one proves impractical. You say that "cruel and unusual punishment" is prohibited, so presumably either cruel or unusual punishment is fine.

      • I hate spammers. I think the punishment should be really cruel..!

        We should force the spammers to read each and every character/mail of all the spams that they ever mailed. Hopefully, with all the spelling mistakes they make, they will really get frustrated with themselves and commit suicide.

    • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:49PM (#25879295)
      You know, I reckon it would have been much much better to shut the company down (yes the millions of dollars damages will shut it down and facebook might get a few grand out of it) but I say put the spammers into jail for a bit. Not over the top, but say six months?

      Closing a company and starting it over in a new name isn't a deterrent. It's a business plan these guys have. Put the owner in the nick for a few months, and I bet he starts chirping a different tune.
      • "You know, I reckon it would have been much much better to shut the company down (yes the millions of dollars damages will shut it down and facebook might get a few grand out of it) but I say put the spammers into jail for a bit. Not over the top, but say six months?"

        -SIX MONTHS?!?! I hope you mean, "six months in Guantanamo Bay" or "six months in San Quentin" or "six months of waterboarding". Six months in a minimum-security "Fed Club-Med" as punishment for spamming is doing them a favor.

      • While I agree with the sentiments, it won't deter anyone.

        They'll just pay a nobody $50 to put their name on the door as the "owner" and then provide "consultancy" services to "the company" and charge "the company" %100 of the profit. Then they're simply a HR company, and Joe Patsy takes the fall.

        They might even get a tax break for running the company at a loss ;-)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TehZorroness (1104427)

        Six months in prison is a long tiome for a crime that caused no physical harm to anyone.

    • by Bombula (670389)

      Here's an idea: use the government's statistical valuation of a human life (it's fallen recently to $6.9 million according to the NY Post) as a conversion unit of these massive financial judgments.

      So a judgment of over $800 million is tantamount to killing 100 people. This is not really that far fetched, since $800 million could be used to save the lives of far more than 100 people - within the US too, without even resorting to saving starving folks in developed countries.

      So, convert this $800+ million cha

    • Indeed. Here in the Great USA, if you screw up big time (at least a few hundred million) and you are in grave amounts of debt, the government will bail you out.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "Basic psychology dictates that once you get above a certain risk people will start to ignore it..."

      Bah and rubbish. Firstly, the "nothing to lose" is normally related in discussions about starving thieves and rapists vs the death penalty. It has nothing at all to do with monetary fines that stack based on repeat offenses... especially completely something completely voluntary like flooding someone's computer with spam. You could accidentally run a red light and get caught and fined, but you're never going

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Jaxoreth (208176)

      I just think we need to be pragmatic about what a punishment is. If we want it to be something that puts other people off doing the same thing then we could think up something better.

      How about a drop of blood? That's all, just one drop of blood.

      ...per delivery.

    • by LanMan04 (790429)

      Freedom's just another word for nothing left to loose. - Janis Joplin

    • Basic psychology dictates that once you get above a certain risk people will start to ignore it because there's no difference between that and "everything".

      Losing everything you own and having a permanent lien against everything you will ever make for the rest of your life turns out to be a relatively effective deterrent.

  • by deft (253558) on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:21PM (#25878995) Homepage

    but from what I've seen, they get overturned, brought down to a reasonable level, or end upo being way more than the person can afford... which actually doesnt send a very good statement at all.

    On the other hand... screw it, take his kidney.

  • According to court documents, he did this in part by fraudulently gaining access to "legitimate" Facebook user accounts, either by phishing to gain login information or acquiring it from third parties.

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

    Roll over and take it, eh facebook users?

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Funny)

      by ettlz (639203) on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:28PM (#25879099) Journal

      Roll over and take it, eh facebook users?

      Yep, and take photos of it.

      And then post those photos.

      And tag the participants.

      And set up a group for Rollers-over-and-Takers-of-It.

      • Don't forget to write a Super-Roll-Over-and-Take-It application, setup a page for it, and of course, after the app is added to a user's facebook, require the user to send out viral invites to their entire friend list before doing anything at all useful.

        The invites will read 'Joseph just posted something dirty about your mother in large block letters on the side of a building, go find out what it was, and get revenge!!!'
  • Irony? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by svvampy (576225)
    Facebook is my biggest source of spam, regaling me with the online exploits of people I once kinda knew.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    CAN-SPAM or CAN'T-SPAM?

    • by PRMan (959735)

      No, see it's like putting the meat-like product back in the...well, you see, it's a verb that means the process of canning, and, uh,

      Cue Mark Hamill as the Joker: "If you have to explain a joke, it's not funny!"

  • by whoever57 (658626) on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:27PM (#25879083) Journal
    This appears to be a default judgment against a non-US entity. Is this so much different from the much-derided judgment against Spamhaus?
    • > Is this so much different from the much-derided judgment against Spamhaus?

      Yes. It is quite possible that a Canadian court will honor the judgement and Facebook will be able to bankrupt the guy.

  • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:29PM (#25879103) Homepage Journal
    1) Start spamable website
    2) ???
    3) Profit
  • Its about the only way those losers will make money...

  • by CannonballHead (842625) on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:33PM (#25879151)

    I am not sure why, but I find it comical that "Facebook" said something... although it would have been funnier had it said "blah blah blah," posted Facebook on the Associated Press's wall.

  • SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Facebook has won a $873 million judgment against a Canadian man who bombarded users with millions of unsolicited messages about drugs and sex.

    U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel signed the default judgment Friday, resolving a lawsuit that Facebook filed in August against Adam Guerbuez of Montreal and his business, Atlantis Blue Capital.

    Facebook alleged that Guerbuez had fooled users into revealing their passwords so he could send out more than 4 million messages that included promotions for marijuana. Guerbuez could not be located for comment.

    The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company predicted the judgment will be difficult to collect, but is hoping that its size discourages future abuses at its site.

    - that fine is impossible to collect, forget about 'difficult', the schmuck certainly doesn't have money like that, or he wouldn't be in this busines. Still, it is nice to see that American corporation can win something like that against a Canadian citizen. Now how about the rest of the spammers? Can you please PLEASE win a lawsuit against those Nigerians! AND THEY CAN PAY!!! They have so many billions it's not funny.

  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:41PM (#25879223) Homepage Journal
    Well good luck collecting it. Mod me down if you must but I just don't see the point in awarding ridiculous amounts that will never be collected. Besides who even knows if that IS the real amount justified?

    Reminds me of companies saying how hackers cost them gazillions of dollars because they copied a manual or some dumb shit back in the late 80s/early 90s.

    Guess I'm a cynic about any judgements being made by non technical people on technical issues. Not that spam is rocket surgery....
    • Not that spam is rocket surgery....

      ...rocket surgery?

    • by AdamD1 (221690)

      Further reporting of this, especially from Canadian news outlets, go into much further detail regarding this aspect of the court judgement.

      The Globe And Mail [theglobeandmail.com] have a particularly good quote from one of the Facebook reps:

      "It's certainly beyond his resources, and we have no illusions about getting all of the money," Mr. Schnitt said.

      "We're going to get whatever we can. To the extent that he has resources, we're going to try and seize them."

      Mr. Schnitt said he mainly hopes the case will act as a deterrent. "[Th

  • Facebook Wins $873 Million Lawsuit Against Spammer

    Isn't that only like half the valuation of your average dot-com startup in 1998?

    • Actually Facebook's valuation is nominally $15 billion (according to Microsoft's investment) so all they need to do is win 15 more of these lawsuits and it'll be almost justified :-)

      • by longacre (1090157)
        The saddest part of that valuation is that it's it's only 25% lower than Citigroup's market cap as of Friday.
  • by sakonofie (979872) on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:52PM (#25879307)
    Well just because TFA is just that short, here it is in new bold action:

    SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) â" Facebook has won a $873 million judgment against a Canadian man who bombarded users with millions of unsolicited messages about drugs and sex.
    U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel signed the default judgment Friday, resolving a lawsuit that Facebook filed in August against Adam Guerbuez of Montreal and his business, Atlantis Blue Capital.
    Facebook alleged that Guerbuez had fooled users into revealing their passwords so he could send out more than 4 million messages that included promotions for marijuana. Guerbuez could not be located for comment.
    The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company predicted the judgment will be difficult to collect, but is hoping that its size discourages future abuses at its site.

    So the standard cost of a foreigner sending me spam is ~$200 per message if they don't show up to court?

    Also Facebook, please don't file lawsuits that you don't expect to have any direct impact. The courts are busy enough without you.

  • by kilgortrout (674919) on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:55PM (#25879341)
    This is a default judgment against a foreign entity which undoubtedly is nothing more than an empty shell corporation with no assets. There is a reason they didn't bother to come and defend this action - the judgment is uncollectable. Talk about your pyrrhic victories.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      except there's a name, adam guerbuez. just a tad different.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by cencithomas (721581)
        ...and is that name attached to an actual human being?

        Because if I were the spammer, I sure as heck wouldn't be using my real name to get the job done.
    • by John Hasler (414242) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:54PM (#25881361) Homepage

      > This is a default judgment against a foreign entity which undoubtedly is nothing more
      > than an empty shell corporation with no assets.

      The judgement was awarded against the spammer personally as well as against his "company" which FaceBook's lawyers say is fictitious.

      > There is a reason they didn't bother to come and defend this action - the judgment is
      > uncollectable.

      FaceBook's lawyers say otherwise. They say they know who he is, where he is, that he has substantial assets, and that they intend to take those assets.

  • Enfoecement (Score:5, Funny)

    by MountainLogic (92466) on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:55PM (#25879345) Homepage
    Now if Facebook will just forward their bank account information to Nigeria I'm sure the spammer will send them the money plus a large fee
  • Maybe they will sue the creators of all those applications that do nothing but spew out invites...

    • Or maybe they will sue the idiotic users who are more than willing to deliberately allow the application access to their profile, and then specifically send out all of the invites to their poor friends, all before they even know if the application does anything at all.
  • Facebook should collect the money then cut a check to each and every one of its users that are actually subjected to the spam.

    Right?
  • by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Monday November 24, 2008 @08:15PM (#25879521)

    awarded $873 million dollars to Facebook

    In a strange coincidence, the odds of Facebook collecting any money from the spammer are also 873-million to one.

  • Who gets the money? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by izomiac (815208) on Monday November 24, 2008 @08:29PM (#25879639) Homepage
    Hypothetically, if the $837M judgment could be collected, who would receive it, Facebook or the users who were spammed? (I only ask in an attempt to be less cynical.) I mean, sure, Facebook might have lost a few users due to the spam, and there in had a reduction in the subsequent ad revenue, but $837M worth? It seems to me they're being rewarded for allowing someone to exploit their system...
    • by tompaulco (629533)
      Facebook: "Look, we can't just accept pay to allow you to spam our users. That is not the image we want to convey for our company. But perhaps there is another way?"
    • by shentino (1139071)

      If the spammer can actually be made to pay that much, it would work well as punitive damages.

      Of course, given the likely source of the spammer's revenues, I dunno how easy it will be to collect off of funds that will likely be subject to forfeiture under racketeering.

    • by strjms72 (1343893)
      i don't know if they lost users due to the spam.... would you delete your account on facebook or on any other social networking site because of the spam?
  • I guess I need to re-read the law. I thought it only dealt with email.
    • If I send you a message on facebook, is that not e-mail? Granted it doesn't fit certain standard protocols, but it's still an online message, right?
      • by wmbetts (1306001)
        Yes, it is an online message, but not exactly what I think of when I hear e-mail. That's why I though the can-spam act was a funny thing to go after them for when they could have gone have them for computer crimes and tried to get them locked up. After all they were stealing accounts.
      • by shentino (1139071)

        It could still count as harassment and system resource abuse.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 24, 2008 @08:54PM (#25879839)

    Same name, same city.

    This is a story from 2003 http://www.montrealmirror.com/ARCHIVES/2003/091803/news2.html

    A Montreal company that makes and sells videos of people gleefully assaulting local vagrants and persuading them to perform humiliating acts is not only exploitative but is also breaking the law, say local social workers and police. The 90-minute Crazypricks Disturbing the Peace has - according to its creator Adam Guerbuez - sold over "2,000 to 3,000 copies a month" since its June release and was created in conjunction with a Web site that shows other such material to 9,000 paid subscribers who get to see updates every two weeks.... ...

    Guerbuez, who says he had put $10,000 into the video and Web site, was acquitted last year for his involvement in an assault that led to the death of a man in 2000. He had been a longtime participant in racist-skinhead groups, although no more, he claims. "I have no time for that" these days, says the self-described businessman.

  • Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Why would facebook get any money? Facebook didn't get the spam, their users did. That money should be awarded to the facebook users who actually received the spam. Facebook users should file lawsuits against Facebook for getting that spam. Seems they would have a good chance of winning since Facebook set the precedence with their win.

    • Well even though the argument is pointless since Facebook obviously won't see a penny, and probably lost a nominal amount of money for legal costs, the argument that the users should get the money is a weak one. The users were using a service entirely provided by Facebook for free. If they were using a premium subscription service and this kind of violation occurred, it would be a much different story.
  • heh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by shentino (1139071)

    Jolly good luck collecting.

    First of all, this guy had the sleaze not to bother showing up in court.

    Second of all, he most likely is unreachable

    Third, if he ever is found, most of his spamming revenues are likely to be subject to forfeiture on grounds of racketeering, leaving doubts as to how much will be left for Facebook to collect.

    • First of all, this guy had the sleaze not to bother showing up in court.

      Forgetting the actual details of the case for a minute...What possible motivation would any individual have to go to a foreign country, to fight a lawsuit filed in that foreign country, by a company based in that foreign country, unless they were compelled to through an extradition process or to protect financial interests ? Absolutely none.

      Why didn't Facebook sue him in Canada instead? At least he may have been compelled to show up.

  • ... thinking that Facebok earned money with ads. Heh.
  • ... Facebook has finally found a business model?

  • I find this quite absurd, since Facebook build their business model on harvesting email addresses and spamming themselves. But for some unknown reason they seem to be more "acceptable" to the general public than an average Viagra scumbag. Why?

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