Internet providers America Online Inc. and EarthLink Inc. said separately on Wednesday that they had taken further legal steps to pursue Internet "spammers" who inundate their members with unwanted e-mail.
AOL said it had sued a company in Florida that had been dismissed from a lawsuit filed in Virginia, while EarthLink said it had uncovered the operators behind a multi-state ring responsible for some 250 million spam messages.
Both announcements advance anti-spam cases filed last year, as Internet providers struggle to stem the tide of get-rich-quick schemes, offers for sexual aids and other unsolicited bulk messages that now account for more than half of all e-mail traffic.
AOL, a division of Time Warner Inc., initially sued Connor Miller Software Inc. in April 2003, but a federal judge said in December that Virginia courts do not have jurisdiction over the company, which is based in Winter Garden, Florida.
In a new suit filed in federal court in Orlando, Florida, AOL charged that Connor Miller helped a client inundate AOL members with 35 million "spam" messages for low-interest mortgage rates.
The company also developed software to help the client evade AOL anti-spam filters, the suit said.
Charles Henry Miller, named in the suit, said his company maintained a computer network for two men accused of spamming but did not send out any commercial e-mail.
Jonathan Beyer and Joseph Conrad, now living in Thailand, are still named as defendants in AOL's original lawsuit filed in Virginia last year.
"We did nothing as far as sending out any spam whatsoever," said Miller, who was reached by telephone.
Miller declined to comment further, citing the lawsuit.
AOL said instant-message conversations between the defendants showed the software company actively conspired in the spamming operation.
"This whole deal is gonna end up with someone in jail and everyone else's careers ruined," reads an instant message cited in the suit.
EarthLink first sued last August, charging that a multi-state marketing ring was using stolen credit-card and bank-account numbers to send out offers for sexual stimulants, dating services and do-it-yourself spam kits from hundreds of dial-up EarthLink accounts in and around Birmingham, Alabama.
But the Atlanta-based Internet provider said at the time it did not know who was behind the scheme.
According to the updated complaint, defendants include companies and individuals located in Florida, California, Tennessee, Michigan and Nevada.
Those charged could still be sending out spam as they are so adept at hiding their identities, said EarthLink Assistant General Counsel Karen Cashion.