WASHINGTON - Facebook welcomed on Monday a U.S. court ruling against a Montreal spammer ordered to pay 873 million dollars in damages for sending unwanted messages to users of the popular social network.

Max Kelly, Facebook's director of security, called the U.S. District Court ruling in San Jose, Calif., an "important victory for our users - and against spam and those who create it."

Judge Jeremy Fogel on Friday ordered Adam Guerbuez and his company Atlantis Blue Capital to pay 436.2 million dollars in statutory damages and another 436.2 million dollars in aggravated statutory damages for violations of the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM).

"Does Facebook expect to quickly collect 873 million dollars and share the proceeds in some way with our users?" asked Kelley in a posting on the Facebook blog. "Alas, no. It's unlikely that Guerbuez and Atlantis Blue Capital could ever honor the judgment rendered against them."

"But we are confident that this award represents a powerful deterrent to anyone and everyone who would seek to abuse Facebook and its users," he added.

"Everyone who participates constructively in Facebook should feel confident that we are fighting hard to protect you against spam and other online nuisances," Kelly said.

"We will continue to invest in this area by improving our technical safeguards and devoting significant resources to finding, exposing and prosecuting the sources of spam attacks."

Facebook began legal action against Guerbuez in August, claiming that he had managed to obtain the passwords of Facebook users and was bombarding them with millions of messages about sexual products and drugs.

Judge Fogel also permanently barred Guerbuez, who lives in Montreal, and Atlantis Blue Capital from any future contact with Facebook.

The judgment was the largest since a pair of accused spammers, Sanford Wallace and Walter Rines, were ordered in May by another California court to pay some 230 million dollars to MySpace, a social networking site.


..............................................