Facebook has been awarded $873 million in damages against a Canadian man accused of sending spam messages to its members.
The default judgment was issued in federal court in San Jose, Calif., on Friday against Adam Guerbuez, of Montreal, and his company, Atlantis Blue Capital. The ruling also forbids Guerbuez from using Facebook or interacting with its members ever again.
Facebook doesn't expect to necessarily collect the money because "it's unlikely that Geurbez and Atlantis Blue Capital could ever honor the judgment rendered against them," Max Kelly, Facebook's director of security, wrote in a blog posting on Monday. "We are confident that this award represents a powerful deterrent to anyone and everyone who would seek to abuse Facebook and its users."
Neither Guerbuez, who has made money selling videos showing people attacking the homeless in Montreal, nor Atlantis Blue Capital could be reached for comment.
Facebook noticed an uptick in spam beginning in the spring, with Facebook members receiving messages from friends and other members offering things like herbal marijuana and male enhancement pills for sale, a spokesman said. The messages were coming from Facebook accounts that had been compromised.
Facebook sued under the Can-Spam (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) Act, which bans "false and misleading" marketing e-mails. Although the law was written for e-mails, a judgment in favor of MySpace in May set the precedent for extending the law to messages sent within social networks. In that case, MySpace was awarded $234 million to be paid by so-called Spam King Sanford Wallace and another man.
The Facebook award is the largest judgment in history for a case brought under the Can-Spam Act, according to Kelly.
Facebook has beefed up its antispam technology since the spring, creating tools that can delete spam messages from accounts and block URLs that direct people to spam Web sites.