social networking aggregation service Power Ventures and its founder, Steve Vachani, have been ordered to pay around $3 million to Facebook for spamming its users with unsolicited invitations to join
U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh in the Northern District of California also issued an injunction banning Power and Vachani from sending unsolicited ads through Facebook's
platform in the future. Koh's decision, issued this week, stems from Facebook's 2008 lawsuit alleging that Power violated anti-spam laws and computer fraud laws in order to grow its service.
Power aggregated data from different social networking sites, enabling people with accounts through MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter and other services to access all of their information from one portal.
To accomplish this, Power asked users to provide log-in information for their social networking sites and then imported people's information. Power then contacted users' friends and invited them to
join, but made it appear as if the emails came from "The Facebook Team."
Facebook argued that its terms of service prohibit people from providing user names and passwords, and that Power
induced Facebook members to violate those terms. Facebook also said that the emails sent by Power violated anti-spam laws on the ground that they were misleading.
The digital rights group
Electronic Frontier Foundation backed Power in the dispute, arguing that Facebook users should be able to use other services to export their contact information to different platforms. The EFF argued
that Power's service merely “enabled Facebook users to automate actions using their own data that they could have performed themselves manually.”
The group added:
“Facebook’s claims are legally wrong and dangerous as a matter of policy, thwarting consumer choice and giving service providers the power to manufacture and cherry-pick anti-competitive
lawsuits against follow-on innovators.”
Last year, U.S. District Court Judge James Ware sided with Facebook and awarded it summary judgment against Power. This week, Koh ruled that
Power and Vachani should pay Facebook $50 for each of the estimated 60,627 messages sent to users