Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Feds Accuse Firms in Porn E-Mail Scheme

Filed under
Legal

Federal regulators accused seven companies Wednesday of hiring others to send illegal e-mails with pornographic messages to tempt consumers to visit adult Internet sites.

The government said four of the firms already agreed to pay nearly $1.2 million to settle the charges, making it among the most aggressive government crackdowns on pornographic e-mail operations.

The Federal Trade Commission described the practice as "electronic flashing" and said at least some of the unwanted e-mails were sent to children. The threat of children unwittingly receiving smut in their inboxes helped drive the U.S. government to impose restrictions on sending commercial e-mails last year.

The FTC said the messages were not prominently marked "sexually explicit," did not include instructions for consumers to block future e-mails and did not include a postal address, all required under federal law.

Consumers complained about receiving the pornographic e-mails and forwarded copies of the troublesome messages to a special e-mail address set up by the FTC (spam(at)uce.gov), said Jonathan M. Kraden, an attorney with the agency's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "We received thousands of messages," Kraden said.

The FTC said the seven companies did not send e-mails directly to consumers but operated affiliate programs, paying others to send unwanted messages to drive Internet traffic to adult Web sites. The FTC said under the "Can Spam" law, defendants in such cases are liable because they paid others to send e-mails on their behalf.

The government said investigators from Microsoft Corp. helped track the companies. Microsoft, which operates its MSN online subscription service and offers free "Hotmail" e-mail accounts, analyzed the pornographic sites advertised in the unwanted e-mails to identify the companies responsible, the FTC said.

The FTC said it directed the Justice Department to file civil lawsuits against three of the companies: T.J. Web Productions LLC of Henderson, Nev.; Cyberheat Inc. of Tucson, Ariz.; and Impulse Media Group Inc. of Seattle. The lawsuits seek unspecified payment to the government for "every violation" of the federal anti-spam law.

The attorney for T.J. Web Productions, Lawrence G. Walters of Altamonte Springs, Fla., said the company was still negotiating with the Justice Department. Walters said there were "legitimate concerns and legal variables" over the government's claims. "If necessary, our client is prepared to litigate those issues," he said.

Executives with Cyberheat did not return telephone messages left by The Associated Press. An executive with Impulse Media Group, Seth Schermerhorn, declined to comment immediately.

The FTC said four of the companies agreed to settle cases against them. BangBros.com Inc. of Miami agreed to pay $650,000; MD Media of Bingham Farms, Mich., agreed to pay $238,743; APC Entertainment Inc. of Davie, Fla., will pay $220,000; and Pure Marketing Solutions LLC of Miami and Internet Matrix Technology of New Orleans will together pay $50,000, the FTC said.

The attorney for MD Media, Danny E. Adams of Kelley Drye in Washington, did not immediately respond to a phone call and e-mail request for comment. The phone numbers listed on Internet records for BangBros.com and Pure Marketing Solutions were disconnected, and the companies did not respond to e-mail requests for comment. Executives for APC Entertainment did not respond to a telephone message from the AP.

Associated Press

More in Tux Machines

OPNFV Plans Next Steps for Open Source NFV, SDN

OPNFV, the open source software-defined networking and network-functions virtualization project, said development of both code and community will be its focus for 2015. Read more

2014: A Banner Year for Open Source

Open source was initially adopted for low cost and lack of vendor lock-in, but customers have found that it also results in better innovation and more flexibility. Now it is pervasive, and it is challenging proprietary incumbents across technology categories. It is not only mainstream, open source is truly leading innovation in areas like cloud, mobile, big data, the Internet of Things, and beyond. As we embark on a new year, I cannot help but reflect on the speed with which technology is changing. Rapidly delivering technology is about much more than just the technology – it is about people and culture. More than ever, this is why executives are looking at key technology companies – including Red Hat – as their partner instead of as a vendor. Read more

IsoHunt releases roll-your-own Pirate Bay

Open Source Meritocracy Is More Than a Joke

In January 2014, Github removed the rug in its office's waiting room in response to criticism of its slogan, "United Meritocracy of Github." Since then, the criticism of the idea of meritocracy has spread in free software circles. "Meritocracy is a joke," has become a slogan seen on T-shirts and constantly proclaimed, especially by feminists. Such commentary is true — so far as it goes, but it ignores the potential benefits of meritocracy as an ethos. Anyone who bothers to look can see that meritocracy is more of an ideal than a standard practice in free software. The idea that people should be valued for their contributions may seem to be a way to promote fairness, but the practice is frequently more complicated. Read more Also: Unmanagement and unleadership