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Spam Social Networks The Almighty Buck The Courts Your Rights Online

Canadian Spammer Fined Over $1 Billion 379

Posted by timothy
from the get-poor-quick-scheme dept.
innocent_white_lamb writes "A man has been fined ONE BEELYUN DOLLARS (yes, really) for sending 4,366,386 spam messages that were posted on Facebook. He was fined $100 for each message, and including punitive damages he now owes $1,068,928,721.46. A ruling by a US District Court judge in San Jose, California has now been upheld by the Quebec Superior Court (the defendant lives in Montreal)."
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Canadian Spammer Fined Over $1 Billion

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  • by wealthychef (584778) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @10:14PM (#33803628)
    I just have to think -- when was the last time a large corporation was fined $1 billion for anything? This has to be just because he had a crappy lawyer or something. Justice quality depends on personal resources in America, no doubt about it.
  • Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blhack (921171) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @10:18PM (#33803670)

    This is something that I've tried and tried and tried to explain to some of my friends that work in marketing. When you are sending spam, you are literally using somebody *else's* property in a way that they don't want you to use it in order to give them messages.

    This should be looked at no differently than causing unused speakers in my house to play radio advertisements when I want them turned off.

    You send spam, and it's taking up a limited resource (disk, bandwidth, power, man hours, etc.) to your end and against the will of the recipient. I really hope that there are more cases like this.

  • by houstonbofh (602064) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @10:20PM (#33803700)

    I just have to think -- when was the last time a large corporation was fined $1 billion for anything? This has to be just because he had a crappy lawyer or something. Justice quality depends on personal resources in America, no doubt about it.

    The real question is when have they paid it... There have been fines. (Reduced on appeal)

  • Priorities.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Renraku (518261) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @10:20PM (#33803706) Homepage

    Funny..a company was just fined a few million for (illegal) human experimentation of their bone anchoring glue which resulted in several deaths, but a spammer that didn't cause any physical harm or death is fined a billion dollars. Let's get some file sharers fined for more than the GDP of several small nations combined too, for good measure.

    I hate spammers, but you're telling me that a few million spam messages are worth more than several LIVES and ILLEGAL MEDICAL EXPERIMENTATION ON HUMANS?

  • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @10:27PM (#33803770) Homepage

    I just have to think -- when was the last time a large corporation was fined $1 billion for anything? This has to be just because he had a crappy lawyer or something.

    If my lawyer had come and said "Great news, I got your fine reduced from $1 billion to $10 million" I'd say "Great, that's like reduing my 20000 year sentence to a 200 year sentence." Corporations try their best to avoid a billion dollar fine because they might just have the money to pay it. If my lawyer wasted his time doing the same, he would be a crappy lawyer.

  • Re:Priorities.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Teancum (67324) <.robert_horning. .at. .netzero.net.> on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @10:27PM (#33803772) Homepage Journal

    How many lives were impacted by the medical testing and how many lives were impacted by the spamming? I think $100 per person sounds pretty reasonable, and the spammer made a conscious decision to send the messages out to the other million or so people that received the spam. It was his fault, the spammer, that so many messages went out.

    At the very least, this ought to make major companies shy away from potential spamming as I'm sure the shareholders would notice a billion dollars leaving the company.

    What I wonder here is if or how somebody can bankrupt their way out of a legal obligation like this?

  • That's too much (Score:2, Insightful)

    by chebucto (992517) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @10:29PM (#33803786) Homepage

    A 1 billion dollar fine is absurd. First, there's no way he can ever pay it. Second, it is way out of proportion to the harm caused. Third, it undermines respect for the courts by making them look out to lunch, foolish and/or vindictive.

    Think about what a billion dollars represents: the lifetime's earnings of a hundreds of well-paid people, or a thousand low-wage people, or the GDP of a small city. Spam sucks, but the damage this guy caused doesn't measure up.

  • Re:um (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Libertarian001 (453712) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @10:31PM (#33803812)

    Possibly they're not "upholding" the US court ruling, but rather, they're not finding contrary to what a foreign court has found. Splitting hairs? Maybe. The one SCOTUS case that I heard oral arguments for (yes, in person) was a jurisdictional issue. A US merchant had already been found against by the Chinese Admiralty, he didn't like it, counter-sued in the US and it made it's way up to SCOTUS. I think it was Ginsberg that came right out and asked why they should create an international incident by "over-ruling" a foreign court. Sharp lady.

  • Re:um (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BitterOak (537666) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @10:32PM (#33803814)

    How can a Canadian court "uphold" a ruling from a US district court? Why do Canadian courts even care unless this guy is going to be extradited?

    Because this is a fine rather than a jail sentence, no extradition is necessary. By upholding the ruling, the Canadian court is agreeing to collect the money on behalf of the American court.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @10:40PM (#33803886)

    I'll believe it when the money is paid. How much time does BP get to produce the money? Under what circumstances would they not have to pay? Nobody writes a check just because Big O said to.

    Obama and BP needed a public relations victory, so the most expedient thing to do was for BP to offer a huge settlement. The loopholes could be discussed after the cameras were turned off.

  • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @10:46PM (#33803938)

    This is something that I've tried and tried and tried to explain to some of my friends that work in marketing.

    "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"
    --Upton Sinclair

  • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Garwulf (708651) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @10:46PM (#33803954) Homepage

    It's even worse than that in this case. According to the article, he was compromising other people's accounts using fake websites, and then using those accounts to send his spam so that it would appear to be from their friends. So, it's not just spam in this case - it's fraud and identity theft.

    If it were up to me, he would also be going to jail.

  • by biryokumaru (822262) <biryokumaru@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @10:47PM (#33803960)
    No, the real question is how the hell does $100 per message times 4.4 million messages equal $1 billion. $600 million in "punitive damages?"
  • Re:um (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rakshasa Taisab (244699) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @10:47PM (#33803966) Homepage

    It's pretty fucking simple this guys... Don't mess it up.

    A US court ruling has no power to get anything from the guy as long as he and all his possessions are outside of the US. Before anything happens in Canada a Canadian court needs to look at the case and see if it agrees on the ruling.

  • Let's see... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lavagolemking (1352431) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:05PM (#33804128)

    I wonder how much the fine would have been if each spam message contained a song "owned" by one of the MAFIAA. You could generate a fine larger than the entire money supply of the whole world put together. This feels almost like a challenge now.

    4,366,386 messages x $200,000 = $873,277,200,000 or $873.3 billion. Actually, it's only a couple hundred times more than what he owes now, which is more than the total amount of money the U.S. government gave the banks in the TARP [wikipedia.org] program, but still just under 1/3 of the U.S. national debt as of October 2009 [usatoday.com]. Are there any economists out there who can tell us if this amount of money is printed (Canada or U.S.)? Would it be theoretically possible for him to walk into the court, and pay in cash?

  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @12:37AM (#33804712)

    "he conned passwords out of users and then fraudulently accessed their accounts"

    When are these idiots who were stupid enough to get 'conned' going to see that money, then? Sounds like they were the ones who were 'damaged'.

  • Ridiculous (Score:2, Insightful)

    by digitallife (805599) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @01:07AM (#33804834)

    The joke here is that the courts have virtually guaranteed that this guy will go back to spamming by giving him such a large monetary punishment. I mean consider from his perspective: he can no longer make any money legally (other than a very basic income that the courts will allow him to keep), so he's forced to go under the table (or live a paltry life). Considering that his skills and contacts all revolve around spamming... Guess what his next illicit job is going to be? Spamming!

    On top of that, claiming that a single spam causes $100 worth of damages is ridiculous, verging on incompetent. A spam causes maybe a cent worth of damages, rounding to the nearest penny, even including wasting peoples time and whatnot. Double that for punitive and the total becomes a much more sensible $100,000.

  • by TheLink (130905) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @01:29AM (#33804964) Journal

    RTFA: "According to Facebook, Guerbuez fooled its users into providing him with their usernames and passwords. One method was the use of fake websites that posed as legitimate destinations."

    "After Guerbuez gained access to user's personal profiles, he used computer programs to send out millions of messages promoting a variety of products, including marijuana and penis-enlargement products, Facebook said."

    How much damage is that to you?

    Whatever the damages are, to me the punitive fines of USD100 per user seem fair to me. So he should still be looking at USD400+ million in fines.

    I don't think you want to encourage "economies of scale" when it comes to crimes.

    So if you figure out a clever but illegal way to paste ads on 4 million people's front-doors, you should only be fined the same amount as someone who does it on one door?

    Yes those people "could always remove the crap on their front door", but if you keep letting people get away with it, you end up with crap permanently on your door.

    You do city-scale damage, you get city-scale fines. Sounds fair to me. Don't like it, think before you do it.

    It's like those littering fines. Yes it doesn't cost that much to remove one coke can from the ground, or a discarded wrapper.

    I don't see why someone should get a smaller fine per offense than a "normal person" just because they chose to make money in a way which involves littering on a massive scale.

  • by Dahamma (304068) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @02:01AM (#33805090)

    Yeah, 'cause that $1B total fine to a bald, goateed, tatooed, BROKE spammer in Canada is really going to send that extra message: "all you bald, goateed, tatooed, broke spammers in Canada, don't spam or we will fine you almost a tenth of a percent of your country's GDP, payable immediately!"

    That'll learn 'em.

  • by naz404 (1282810) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @03:14AM (#33805440) Homepage

    Did no one else notice the even more horrifying fact that he set up phishing websites to steal account usernames and passwords?

    According to Facebook, Guerbuez fooled its users into providing him with their usernames and passwords. One method was the use of fake websites that posed as legitimate destinations.

    This guy deserves to be repeatedly sodomized in jail with the use of unpeeled pineapples.

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @03:23AM (#33805472) Homepage

    What damages? What damage was done by this guy?

    Apart from stealing a load of bandwidth and wasting about a couple of years of productivity (deleting four million spams adds up), he set up a load of fake websites to steal Facebook user's passwords (which is how he sent the spam).

    Is that your definition of 'harmless fun'? Seems other people don't agree with you...

  • by rah1420 (234198) <rah1420@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @05:10AM (#33805958)

    Please tell me how his physical appearance has anything to do with what he's being assessed as a fine.

    And you might amend that description to "bald, goateed, tattooed, BROKE, unrepentant and defiant." Seems to me that if you brag about your crime, threaten BK so that nobody can 'come after you' etc. etc. that perhaps the judge setting the award might take that into consideration when pronouncing sentence, dontcha think?

  • by mmontour (2208) <mail@mmontour.net> on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @09:42AM (#33808182)

    Since the guy's canadian and lives in canada.. And this is a US court ruling..
    He went with the "I don't live in that country and they can fuck off" defence...

    Ask Mark Emery [www.cbc.ca] how well that defense works.

  • by kuei12 (1555897) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @10:48AM (#33809456)
    $100 each? Or, is it like the american legal system where the victims just get a warm feeling in their hearts just knowing they made lawyers richer?

What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind. -- Thomas Hewitt Key, 1799-1875

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