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AOL settles lawsuit against spammers

Two Florida men have agreed to a lengthy settlement with America Online that will give the Internet provider the right to audit...

Two Florida men have agreed to a lengthy settlement with America Online that will give the Internet provider the right to audit their company's records to make sure that spammers aren't using their service to send pornographic e-mail to AOL users.

AOL has made available details of the 16-page settlement that ended its lawsuit against John J. Bennett., Joseph B. Elkind and their company, Netvision Audiotext.

The lawsuit, filed in January 2001, arose after AOL customers received pornographic e-mail messages from people using Bennett and Elkind's service.

According to the settlement, Bennett and Elkind must verify all users of their Web hosting services. That includes:

  • Making sure that webmasters are 18 years old or older;


  • Ensuring that all webmasters have a valid credit card and a physical address -- no post office boxes will be allowed;


  • Recording the social security or US tax identification numbers for all webmasters;


  • Requiring all webmasters to be familiar with AOL's antispam policies;


  • Allowing AOL to audit the company's records to ensure that the practices are being followed.

The settlement requires Bennett and Elkind to terminate contracts with anyone violating those rules, and tell AOL about any new companies they form or any companies they manage. The pair must also set aside an undisclosed amount of money.

However, observers are unconvinced about how much good the suit may accomplish because most spammers are small, "fly-by-night" companies that are hard to hit with legal action.

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