1997 Ig Nobel Prize winner Sanford Wallace keeps on spamming

Sanford Wallace, who in 1997 was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for his seminal role in manufacturing and distributing spam, has reportedly been convicted yet again on spam-related legal charges.

The Associated Press reports, on August 25, 2015:

Nevada man pleads guilty to sending spam to Facebook users

A Nevada man pleaded guilty Monday to sending more than 27 million spam messages to Facebook users, federal officials said.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said Sanford Wallace, of Las Vegas admitted in federal court in San Jose, California, to accessing about 500,000 Facebook accounts and sending unsolicited ads disguised as friend posts over a three-month span.

Wallace collected Facebook user account information by sending “phishing” messages that tricked users of the social networking site into providing their passwords, prosecutors said.

He then used that information to log into their accounts and post spam messages on their friends’ Facebook walls, according to the indictment. Those who clicked on the link, thinking it came from a friend, were redirected to websites that paid Wallace for the Internet traffic.

In 2009, Palo Alto-based Facebook sued Wallace under federal anti-spam laws known as CAN-SPAM, prompting a judge to issue a temporary restraining order banning him from using the website.

Wallace, 47, acknowledged accessing Facebook’s computer network in order to send the spam messages on three occasions between November 2008 and February 2009.

Wallace also admitted that he violated a court order not to access Facebook’s computer network. He was charged with fraud and criminal contempt, Haag said.

Wallace is free on bond and scheduled to be sentenced in December. He faces a $250,000 fine and up to three years in prison.

In 2013, Nate Anderson wrote, for Ars Technica, a history of Mr. Wallace’s spam-related achievements:

Sanford Wallace [selfie]
Sanford Wallace [selfie]
The decade-long quest to stop “Spamford” Wallace
After a spate of lawsuits dating back to the late ’90s, the feds step in

[He found] monetary success—and public notoriety—during the mid-1990s with his Pennsylvania company Cyber Promotions. As a heavyset twentysomething with close-cropped hair and glasses, Wallace first spammed fax machines and then moved on to e-mail, believing that he had a legal right to market his wares as he saw fit. Dubbed “Spamford” by opponents, he eventually embraced the nickname and even registered the domain spamford.com. (In 1997, Hormel sent him a letter objecting to the name on the grounds that it used the company’s potted meat SPAM trademark). Unlike other spammers who hid their identities, Wallace regularly tangled in public with antispam crusaders.

Cyber Promotions quickly became so hated that a dozen Internet service providers, including AOL, sued Wallace in the late 1990s, each hoping to halt his flood of junk e-mail despite the lack of antispam laws at the time. Wallace pressed on…

The Ig Nobel citation, in 1997, said the Ig Nobel Prize for communications was awarded to “Sanford Wallace, president of Cyber Promotions of Philadelphia — neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night have stayed this self-appointed courier from delivering electronic junk mail to all the world.”

[NOTE: The other, older kind of Spam was the subject of the 1992 Ig Nobel prize for nutrition. That prize was awarded to “The utilizers of Spam, courageous consumers of canned comestibles, for 54 years of undiscriminating digestion.”

Wikipedia provides a handy, if not entirely up-to-date, list of links to documents pertaining to some of Mr. Wallace’s many court proceedings.

BONUS: Monty Python’s tribute to Spam: