FTC SUES PORN SPAMMER

Allegedly Used Misleading Subject Lines, False E-mail Addresses

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The Federal Trade Commission today said it has sued a man whose "deceptively bland" subject lines for his "spam" e-mails promoting his porn sites violated federal "unfair" practices statutes.

The FTC has never gone after a person or company for providing misleading information just in a subject line, but the agency said that Brian D. Westby's e-mail headers were so egregious -- one claimed to be about "new movie info" -- that adults and children opened the e-mails and got solicitations for porn sites instead.

'What is wrong?'
The FTC said messages arriving with

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subject lines like "Fwd: You may want to reboot your computer," "Did you hear the news?" or "What is wrong?" when opened led to sexually explicit material that consumers had no reason to expect to see.

The suit against Mr. Westby, filed in the U.S. District Court of Illinois, seeks a temporary injunction to halt his junk, or "spam" e-mails promoting his "Married But Lonely" Web site and that he be forced to give up his profits from the e-mails.

Mr. Westby, of St. Louis, whose phone number is not published, could not be reached for comment. The FTC said it had received 46,000 copies of the e-mails from consumers complaining about the messages.

Real 'from' addresses
The complaint also accuses Mr. Westby of offering people the opportunity to "opt out" of further e-mails, but then not taking them off his lists. The FTC said another tactic used by Mr. Westby was "spoofing," or providing false "from" or "reply-to" e-mail addresses. The FTC claimed that in some cases real addresses were used, and people with those addresses received thousands -- and in one case, tens of thousands -- of angry returned e-mails.

The FTC action comes as the agency is readying a major workshop on spam at the end of the month.

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