Judge Asked to Quash 'Deceptively Bland' Spam

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  1. Smokey

    Smokey Registered Member

    Apr 1, 2002
    Annie's Pub
    Judge Asked to Quash 'Deceptively Bland' Spam

    U.S. regulators on Thursday asked a federal judge to shut down an Internet spammer who it says uses "deceptively bland" subject lines to steer people to adult Web sites.

    Lawyers with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission asked for a restraining order on Brian Westby, an alleged purveyor of unwanted junk e-mail, or spam, based in St. Louis.

    The agency said Westby used unassuming subject lines such as "Did you hear the news?" to drive Internet users to a sexually explicit Web site called "Married But Lonely."

    "In some cases, consumers may have opened the e-mails in their offices, in violation of company policies," the FTC said. "In other cases, children may have been exposed to inappropriate adult-oriented material."

    Earlier this week America Online, the Internet arm of AOL Time Warner Inc. filed five separate lawsuits against more than a dozen individuals and companies that have been sending high volumes of spam to its subscribers.

    The FTC lawsuit filed on Thursday marks the first time the FTC has based a complaint on the use of deceptive subject lines, a lawyer for the FTC said.

    "It's focused on the subject line, and the subject line being a deceptive door-opener," said FTC lawyer Steven Wernikoff.

    The e-mails also used phony "from" lines, a tactic known as "spoofing" that makes it appear that the mail came from an innocent third party, the agency said.

    "As a result, thousands of undeliverable e-mails flooded back to the computer systems of these third parties, deluging their computer systems with an influx of spam that couldn't be delivered to the addressee," the FTC said.

    The e-mails contained a link to "unsubscribe" and avoid any more e-mails. However, people who tried to use the link ended up getting an error message, the agency said.

    Westby could not be reached for comment. His phone number in suburban St. Louis is unpublished.

    Although spam is widely regarded as one of the top nuisances on the Internet, it is not illegal under U.S. law.

    The FTC pursues spammers who violate existing laws against deceptive and unfair trade practices, and has announced hundreds of settlements in recent years.

    Congressional efforts to limit spam have stumbled over opposition from direct marketers who say their activities would be unfairly limited. But lawmakers, notably Montana Republican Sen. Conrad Burns, are vowing to try again this year.

    Source: Reuters
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