October 28, 2004 12:59 PM PDT

New round of spam suits from AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo

America Online, Microsoft, EarthLink and Yahoo are teaming again to turn up the heat on spammers.

The companies, which make up the Anti-Spam Alliance, announced on Thursday that they've each filed new lawsuits in U.S. Federal Court against senders of unwanted computer messages. The companies filed suits in the states of Washington, Georgia and California accusing defendants of violating the federal Can-Spam Act, along with other state and federal laws.

This round of lawsuits is the second time these companies have banded together to take legal action against spammers. In March, they collaborated to file the industry's first major round of lawsuits accusing spammers of violating the Can-Spam Law, which went into effect Jan. 1.

One of AOL's new lawsuits is noteworthy because it's the first to target "spim"--unwanted messages sent through instant messaging programs or chat rooms. So far spim has only affected a small number of users. Experts say the problem is growing but may be minimized by new enterprise-class IM applications and enhancements in consumer IM software. AOL's lawsuit may show spimmers that the company is serious about shutting down the threat through legal avenues as well.

"AOL and our members continue to make spam-fighting a priority, and we continue to use the legal process on (members') behalf to help put a lid on the worst, most active spammers--no matter where they are, or how they send their unwanted junk," Randall Boe, executive vice president and general counsel of AOL, said in a statement.

AOL and EarthLink also took aim at spammers peddling controlled substances, including Vicodin and other drugs, which are legally sold only by prescription. EarthLink's suit also accused several "John Doe" defendants of sending deceptive e-mails to advertise low mortgage or loan rates. The company accused the defendants of attempting to collect and resell consumers' names and contact information, which is illegal.

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