Arbitrator rules spammer must pay MySpace $6 million

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MySpace has won a $6 million judgment against a spammer who allegedly used the popular social networking site to bombard users with unwanted advertisements.

An arbitrator ruled that Westminster, Colo.-based Media Breakaway and its principal, Scott Richter, must pay MySpace $4.8 million in damages and $1.2 million in attorney's fees.

MySpace sued the company in January 2007 on claims it violated federal anti-spam laws by barraging users with millions of messages promoting websites that hawked items such as ring tones and Polo shirts.

The social networking site accused Richter and his affiliates of either first launching phishing attacks to steal usernames and passwords needed to deliver the messages, or that they were purchased from a third party.

Media Breakway, in a statement on Monday, said MySpace was seeking a $120 million judgment.

The arbitrator said Media Breakaway, a direct marketing firm, was responsible for sending "a number" of unwanted messages to MySpace users but could not be held responsible for ones sent by its affiliates, according to the statement.

"We respect the arbitrator's findings regarding violations of MySpace's Terms of Use by certain rogue affiliates, particularly during 2006 when the concept of social networks was still developing," said Steven Richter, Media Breakaway's president and general counsel.

The arbitrator said Media Breakaway has made improvements in its policies and procedures for working with affiliates, the statement said.

In the past 18 months, MySpace has been more aggressive in going after spammers. In May, the site won a $223 million judgment against Sanford Wallace and his associated Walter Rines.

"MySpace has zero tolerance for illegal activity on our site and is committed to bringing to justice those who try to harm our members," MySpace Chief Security Officer Hemu Nigam said in a statement. "This award reflects MySpace's continued momentum and holistic approach to ridding the site of spammers and phishers through technological innovation, education, partnerships and enforcement."

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