SEATTLE -- Microsoft Corp. said Tuesday it has filed 15 lawsuits accusing the defendants of collectively flooding its systems and customers with more than 2 billion deceptive unsolicited e-mail messages.
The lawsuits address some of the most misleading, deceptive and offensive spam e-mail received by Microsoft customers, the company said. The lawsuits accused the defendants of violating laws in Washington state and the United Kingdom.
Microsoft cited Washington's strong anti-spam law, which allows Internet service providers to take action against spammers.
"We need an aggressive, sustained and comprehensive assault by industry, government and consumers to stop spam," said Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire, who joined company officials at a news conference near Microsoft's Redmond headquarters. "Today's lawsuits are exactly the kinds of action we need to put illegal spammers out of business."
In London, Microsoft announced a regional anti-spam initiative that includes two lawsuits alleging the unlawful gathering of e-mail addresses and other practices that violate U.K. law.
Microsoft is seeking court orders to stop the spammers and requests unspecified monetary damages, general counsel Brad Smith said.
Representatives of the companies either could not be located for comment or did not return messages left by The Associated Press Tuesday.
Washington state's anti-spam law bans bulk or commercial e-mail with misleading information in the subject line, invalid reply addresses or disguised transmission paths. It allows for damages of at least $500 per message for individuals and $1,000 for Internet service providers.
Microsoft earlier this year had sought to weaken provisions of the law by capping the amount that could be awarded to $25,000 a day. The bill died, and Microsoft spokesman Sean Sundwall said the effort was to protect service providers like Microsoft from people who sought to hold the providers accountable for the spam.
But the hefty financial penalties was one of the reasons Microsoft decided to sue under Washington's anti-spam law, said Tim Cranton, Microsoft's senior corporate attorney.
Microsoft's suits follow similar ones filed by rival Internet service providers America Online and EarthLink Inc. In April, America Online filed federal suits against spammers it accused of sending more than 1 billion unwanted e-mails.
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