Alleged sex spammers pay $465,000 in FTC settlement

Sophos Press Release

Firm did not stamp emails as sexually explicit

US laws dictate that hardcore messages must include an explicit label
US laws dictate that hardcore messages must include an explicit label.

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have welcomed news that a pornography company has been fined of $465,000 for sending spam emails which did not include a warning indicating they included sexually explicit content.

According to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Nevada-based TJ Web Productions, which operates dozens of websites containing adult photographs and videos, have widely distributed sexually explicit emails since May 2004.

Under FTC rules spammers must include the warning 'SEXUALLY-EXPLICIT: ' in the subject lines of their pornographic emails or face fines. Spammers who do not clearly label their sexually orientated messages are in violation of federal law.

As part of the settlement, TJ Web Productions has agreed to adhere to federal spam laws in future email campaigns. Additionally, emails will now have to include an opt-out email contact and postal address.

"This is another victory for the good guys trying to clean up innocent peoples' inboxes from unwanted and unpleasant content, and it sends a warning shot across the bows of other spammers that they could be facing substantial penalties," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "The FTC guidelines on marking sexually explicit spam are unpopular amongst the spammers, because it makes it easier to identify unsolicited hardcore messages and prevent them from reaching users. Anything which makes life less profitable for spammers has to be good news for all of us."

TJ Web Productions, headquartered in Henderson, Nevada, is said to have sent the emails through a third-party affilate network who were paid to send emails on the company's behalf. Under the settlement affiliates will also have to abide by the FTC rules.

Since the FTC and Department of Justice announced a crackdown on explicit spam in July 2005, seven companies have been charged with violating federal laws. According to the FTC, settlements have resulted in fines totalling $1.62 million.

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