Facebook Gets $711M Award Against "Spam King"

SAN JOSE, Calif.—It isn't the largest monetary award Facebook has ever won in court, but the second largest at a cool $711 million. Not that the social networking phenomenon will see even a majority of the money Sanford Wallace (pictured) was ordered to pay Thursday for spamming the social network.

Wallace was sued by Facebook in February along with two co-defendants for obtaining the login credentials for other FaceBook accounts, which were then used to send spam to those users' friends starting around November 2008.

Sam O'Rourke, lead council for litigation and intellectual property at Facebook, wrote in a blog post Thursday: "Today, a San Jose, Calif., court awarded Facebook $711 million in damages against Sanford Wallace, one of the spammers who accessed people's accounts without their permission and sent phony Wall posts and messages. While we don't expect to receive the vast majority of the award, we hope that this will act as a continued deterrent against these criminals.

"Most notably, the judge referred Wallace to the U.S. Attorney's Office with a request that Wallace be prosecuted for criminal contempt, which means that in addition to the judgment, he now faces possible jail time. This is another important victory in our fight against spam. We will continue to pursue damages against other spammers."

Last year Facebook won $873 million from a Canadian who was caught spamming pharmaceuticals and sex products.

While these judgments would seem to imply that the spammers are on the defensive, and maybe even losing the war, not everyone thinks the multimillion-dollar awards translate into intimidation for a breed of scammer accustomed to playing the long shot in a high-stakes numbers racket.

"Spamming is a lucrative business," writes Brennon Slattery for PC World, "and as long as e-mail accounts exist, spam will persist. While the judgment against Wallace will surely cause some spammers to second-guess their vocations, it's doubtful that it will put a serious dent in a profession so rife with money. Facebook has every right to be proud, but has no reason, at the moment, to be haughty—watching The Spam King go down in flames won't prevent phony Facebook wall posts or malware-ridden bulk e-mail messages."