AOL brings on the heavy guns in spam war

America Online has filed five separate lawsuits against alleged spammers as part of a broad antispam campaign that has included...

America Online has filed five separate lawsuits against alleged spammers as part of a broad antispam campaign that has included legal, legislative and technological means.

The lawsuits charged more than a dozen companies and individuals with sending an estimated one billion spam messages to AOL members.

The spam elicited more than eight million complaints from AOL members, many of whom used the "Report Spam" button on the latest version of AOL's service.

Individuals named in the suits were Michael Levesque of Washington, and George Moore of Maryland. However, many of the other defendants are listed as "John Does" of "unknown locations" since the company does not yet know who they are.

AOL is seeking civil penalties and monetary damages of at least $10m under the Virginia Computer Crimes Act, the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the Washington Commercial Electronic Mail Act.

This week an AOL spokesman confirmed that the company has begun blocking mail servers identified with residential broadband IP addresses as part of its spam-fighting initiative.

"We've been working with a variety of broadband providers like AT&T Comcast and Road Runner to identify and block spammers using residential IP addresses," said AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham.

AOL began working "in earnest" with broadband providers in late March after receiving complaints from users about spam originating from the addresses.

A variety of other broadband providers, such as SBC Communications and BT Openworld, are also collaborating.

While it is still unclear how users will react, Graham said that after working with Comcast and Road Runner to block these address, the amount of spam originating from the broadband providers dropped dramatically.

He added that other broadband players have been approaching AOL to identify blocks of dynamic residential IP addresses that are, presumably, operating outside of the contracts the users have with their providers.

"There is no doubt about it, this is a new front on the spam war," Graham said.

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