Microsoft, Pfizer Hunt Viagra Spammers

Microsoft announced Thursday that it has teamed up with drug company Pfizer to combat the increasing amount of Viagra-related spam it has been receiving on its MSN Hotmail service over the past year. The expressed aim of the lawsuits is not only to stop the spam, but also to end the illegal manufacture of generic Viagra overseas.

So far, 17 lawsuits have been filed by the two companies for various violations of the CAN-SPAM act, as well as state and federal laws.

Aaron Kornblum, who talked to BetaNews late last year about MS' efforts to curb pornographic spam, explained how the unlikely alliance came about.

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"Today's actions are the result of initial conversations with Pfizer which began last summer," Kornblum said in prepared remarks. "Pfizer contacted us because they were receiving unwanted attention for e-mail spam advertising Viagra, which was troubling for several reasons."

The main reason that Pfizer felt it must act was because the company was being blamed by consumers for the spam. Secondly, Pfizer became concerned that the drugs being sold through these e-mails were not FDA-approved, and thus could be dangerous to the health of consumers. Finally, the e-mails were illegal, as well as infringements on Pfizer's rights to the Viagra name.

Kornblum did clarify that while the two companies had teamed up for investigatory purposes, most of the suits themselves are separate.

"Each company filed parallel lawsuits against two separate international spam rings," he said. "Microsoft is filing three other lawsuits against other alleged pharmaceutical spammers and Pfizer is filing 10 lawsuits against other defendants. So overall, there are 12 actions being filed by Pfizer and five by Microsoft."

However, the companies have their work cut out for them. Pfizer Chief Counsel Marc Brotman relayed a story that probably many Internet users can relate to. "One consumer sent a letter to our CEO, screaming about all the Viagra e-mail he was getting," he recalled. "He said he received 20 in one day, and several thousand in just a few months."

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