updated 12/3/2004 7:09:11 PM ET 2004-12-04T00:09:11

The Web portal Lycos Europe on Friday terminated a spam-fighting campaign that had been criticized as a breach of Internet civility.

The decision follows complaints from security experts that Lycos was acting as a vigilante and could potentially harm legitimate Web sites by distributing a screensaver program that aims to overwhelm what Lycos defines as spam servers.

Lycos spokesman Kay Oberbeck said the "Make Love Not Spam" campaign was always meant to be temporary. He said Lycos decided to stop it solely because the company felt satisfied the program had managed to raise awareness and spark discussion.

About 100,000 people had downloaded the free screensaver. When a computer running the screensaver was idle, the program sent bogus traffic to alleged spam sites designated by Lycos, increasing bandwidth costs for the sites' operators.

Those screensavers will no longer send such traffic because Lycos disabled the site list, Oberbeck said.

Lycos said it monitored the sites to ensure that its tactics did not disable Web sites entirely, although Internet monitoring company Netcraft said two such sites were knocked offline.

Lycos denied those reports, saying the two sites in question weren't on the target list on the day Netcraft checked. This could not be immediately verified independently.

The targets generally were not the servers used to do the actual mailings. Rather they were sites trying to sell products pitched by spam.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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