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Dutch Spammer Fined $97,000

A spammer whom authorities say e-mailed more than 9 billion unwanted advertisements faces a hefty fine.

Dutch authorities have levied a $97,000 fine on an unidentified man for sending "unsolicited electronic messages to consumers to promote erection enhancement pills, pornographic web sites, sex products and such," the country's telecommunications watchdog said Friday in a statement. It was the largest such fine levied by the watchdog, known by its Dutch acronym OPTA.

OPTA said it considered several factors, including the sheer volume of the messages, saying the 9 billion was a "minimum" estimate.

"Another aggravating factor was that this person used hundreds of so-called proxies," OPTA said. That's a common spamming technique in which computers of unsuspecting users are commandeered, often using viruses or other malicious software, to conceal the messages' true origins, making them more likely to slip by anti-spam filters.

Authorities say the man earned at least $52,000 from sending the spam in the year before he was caught on Nov. 1, 2005.

The spammer had argued in his defense that he had already stopped sending spam by the time he was caught, "not because he realized that what he was doing was a violation of the law, but because he simply wasn't earning enough money by sending the messages," OPTA said. The Netherlands outlawed spam in May 2004.

OPTA said Microsoft Corp. had helped in its investigation by gathering evidence.

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