Spam King Faces Hard Time

Spam king Spam king Sanford Wallace could land in jail for criminal contempt of court if Facebook has its way.

Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose, currently presiding over a lawsuit brought against Wallace by Facebook, has asked the U.S. Attorney's Office to investigate whether Wallace should face prosecution for allegedly violating an injunction ordering him to stop accessing the site.

Earlier this year, Facebook sued Wallace for allegedly sending misleading and unsolicited messages to members of the social networking site. In March, the site obtained an injunction ordering Wallace to refrain from maintaining an account on the site. The injunction also required Wallace to avoid attempts to access information about Facebook users.

Last month, Facebook sought to hold Wallace in contempt for allegedly violating that order by continuing to log in to the site and effectively spamming members via Twitter. Allegedly, Wallace installed the Facebook Twitter application in April, linked his Facebook and Twitter accounts, and then used Twitter to spread spam on Facebook.

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The scheme allegedly involved posting "spam links" on Twitter that directed users to sites asking for log-in information, which was then "used to compromise their Twitter accounts and post spam links to more spam domains," according to Facebook. Whenever Wallace made a Twitter post, his Facebook feed would automatically update; the result was that the spam links began spreading through Facebook, the company alleged.

Last Thursday, Wallace filed for bankruptcy protection. He argued that all legal proceedings against him, including Facebook's motion to hold him in criminal contempt, should be stayed pending resolution of the bankruptcy.

Wallace appeared in front of Fogel on Friday. The judge didn't hold Wallace in contempt, but referred the matter to the federal authorities for prosecution. It's not clear whether they will pursue criminal charges against Wallace.

Still, Facebook said the ruling was a victory. "We see Fogel's ruling as a strong deterrent against spammers," the company said in a statement. "Spammers feel that they are immune from criminal prosecution. Fogel's ruling demonstrates that judges will enforce restraining orders and spammers who violate them face criminal prosecution."

Last year, a federal court in Los Angeles ordered Wallace and another individual to pay MySpace $230 million for sending members unsolicited messages that appeared to have come from their friends.

In a separate case, he also was ordered to pay more than $4 million for installing adware on consumers' computers without obtaining their consent.

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