Spam now comprises 90+% of all email. What do you do when you receive spam? Most of us may just let off some expletives and hit the delete button.

Spam now comprises 90+% of all emails.

But not Daniel Balsam. Balsam hates spam so much that he chooses to attack the problem from the legal side….he sues them.

Eight years ago, Balsam was working as a marketer when he received one too many e-mail pitches to enlarge his breasts. Enraged, he launched a Web site called Danhatesspam.com, quit a career in marketing to go to law school and is making a decent living suing companies who flood his e-mail inboxes with offers of cheap drugs, free sex and unbelievable vacations.

His website carries the tagline “Dedicated to cleaning up the Internet.”

From San Francisco Superior Court small claims court to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Balsam, based in San Francisco, has filed many lawsuits, including dozens before he graduated law school in 2008, against e-mail marketers he says violate anti-spamming laws.

Daniel Balsam

He has been storing and tracking spam since the spring of 2002.  So far, he has 42 judgments against spammers in Court, a few settlements for which he can name the spammers, and many settlements for which he can’t share details.  And many more cases are in various stages of development. His many victories are mere rain drops in the ocean considering that Cisco Systems Inc. estimates that there are 200 billion spam messages circulating a day, accounting for 90 percent of all e-mail.

Still, Balsam settles enough lawsuits and collects enough from judgments to make a living. He has racked up well in excess of $1 million in court judgments and lawsuit settlements with companies accused of sending illegal spam.

His objective in getting into this was – and still is – to increase the spammers’ cost of doing business.   Maybe then the spammers won’t falsify headers, and maybe they’ll think twice before spamming even after a recipient unsubscribes, and maybe the legitimate and “quasi-legitimate” marketers will think twice before purchasing lists of allegedly opt-in email addresses. If lots of people start suing the spammers, and the principals that benefit from spamming, maybe it’ll make a difference.

His courtroom foes contend that Balsam is one of many sole practitioners unfairly exploiting anti-spam sentiments and laws.

They accuse him of filing lawsuits against out-of-state companies that would rather pay a small settlement than expend the resources to fight the legal claims.

“He really seems to be trying to twist things for a buck,” said Bennet Kelley, a defense lawyer who has become Balsam’s arch nemesis over the years in the rough-and-tumble litigation niche that has sprung up around spam.

Kelley created a website with a similar name, Danhatespam.com, that was critical of Balsam’s tactics. Kelley let it expire.

“There is nothing wrong per se with being an anti-spam crusader,” said Kelley, who has sued Balsam twice for allegedly violating confidentiality terms in settlement agreements.

“But Dan abuses the processes by using small claims court.

“A lot of people will settle with him to avoid the hassle,” Kelley said.

Balsam started small in 2002 in small claims court. By 2008, some of his cases were appearing before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal and he was graduating from the University of California Hastings College of the Law.

“What started just as kicks turned into a hobby, which turned into a career,” Balsam said.

“It’s what triggered me to go to law school.”

Balsam mostly sues companies he accuses of violating California’s anti-spam law.

Among other restrictions, the law prohibits companies from sending spam with headers that misleads the recipient into believing the e-mail is noncommercial or comes with offers of “free” products that aren’t true.

The law also requires a way for Internet consumers to “opt out” of receiving any more spam from a sender.

Balsam said he has more than 40 small claims victories and several more in higher courts, mostly alleging the receipt of misleading advertising.

In November, he won a US$4,000 judgment against Various Inc., an “adult-oriented” social media company that controls AdultFriendFinder.com.

A judge sided with Balsam, who sued after he received four identical e-mails sent to four different accounts with the identical subject line “Hello my name is Rebecca, I love you.”

It’s the fourth time he’s beat Various in court.

The company is appealing the latest ruling and a hearing is scheduled for Jan. 5 in San Francisco Superior Court.

Balsam certainly isn’t the average Internet consumer.

When San Mateo Superior Court Judge Marie Weiner in March ordered Trancos Inc. to pay Balsam $7,000 for sending spam that recipients couldn’t stop, she noted that he has more than 100 e-mail addresses.

Balsam has filed lawsuits and got settlements and judgments from companies small and large.

He has sued the Stockton Asparagus Festival and embroiled himself in contentious litigation with Tagged.com, America’s third largest social networking site.

Balsam noted in his lawsuit that Time magazine dubbed it “the world’s most annoying Web site.”

Tagged.com shot back with a lawsuit of its own, accusing Balsam of threatening to violate terms of an earlier settlement by telling the company he was planning to post terms of the agreement on his website.

Balsam is fighting the lawsuit and a lawyer for Tagged.com didn’t return a phone call seeking comment.

Balsam has also been sued by Valueclick Inc. for allegedly breaching settlement agreements by exposing confidential terms, which he denies.

“Balsam, who in his anti-spam zeal frequently views matters in absolutes such that anyone who disagrees with him must be villainous,” lawyers for Valueclick Inc. stated in a 2007 lawsuit accusing Balsam of disclosing terms of a settlement.

The lawsuit was later dismissed in San Francisco Superior Court and Balsam declined to discuss the case other than to say it was “resolved.”

He said, generally speaking, those who sue him are “retaliating” for lawsuits he filed against them.

“I feel comfortable doing what I’m doing,” Balsam said of the lawsuits against him. “And I’m not going away.”

To all spammers out there, be afraid…be very afraid…Daniel Balsam is gonna get you!

NO SPAM

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Meet the second-youngest individual ever to be named Time magazine’s Person of the Year: Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and co-founder of the omnipresent social-networking site Facebook.

TIME's 2010 Person of the Year Mark Zuckerberg

“It’s something that is transforming the way we live our lives every day,” Rick Stengel, the magazine’s managing editor, said as he announced the magazine’s 2010 selection live on NBC’s ‘Today’ show earlier today. “It’s social engineering, changing the way we relate to each other.”

“He’s very affable, he’s in the moment, he’s quick-witted,” Stengel said, but “he has this thing when he gets on camera” and becomes suddenly shy.

Stengel said Zuckerberg stands out for accomplishing something that’s never been done before. “This year they passed 500 million users — one in 10 people on the planet.

“He’s our second-youngest Person of the Year,” Stengel added; only Charles Lindbergh, named the magazine’s very first Man of the Year back in 1927 when he was only 25, was younger. “He’s deeply affected by it.”

Zuckerberg created the hugely popular and influential social networking site, which reflects a major transformation in the way people communicate and do business.

Facebook CEO

“Facebook started out as a lark, but it has changed the way human beings relate to each other. And Mark Zuckerberg is the man who brought us here,” TIME says on the magazine’s website.

TIME’s editor, in their letter explaining “Why We Chose Him” wrote the following:

“At 26, Zuckerberg is a year older than our first Person of the Year, Charles Lindbergh — another young man who used technology to bridge continents. He is the same age as Queen Elizabeth when she was Person of the Year, for 1952. But unlike the Queen, he did not inherit an empire; he created one …”

For connecting more than half a billion people and mapping the social relations among them (something that has never been done before); for creating a new system of exchanging information that has become both indispensable and sometimes a little scary; and finally, for changing how we all live our lives in ways that are innovative and even optimistic, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg is TIME’s 2010 Person of the Year.”

Almost seven years ago, in February 2004, when Zuckerberg was a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard, he started a Web service from his dorm. It was called Thefacebook.com, and it was billed as “an online directory that connects people through social networks at colleges.”

Mark Zuckerberg during his Harvard days

This year, Facebook — now minus the the — added its 550 millionth member. One out of every dozen people on the planet has a Facebook account. They speak 75 languages and collectively lavish more than 700 billion minutes on Facebook every month.

Last month the site accounted for 1 out of 4 American page views. Its membership is currently growing at a rate of about 700,000 people a day.

What just happened? In less than seven years, Zuckerberg wired together a twelfth of humanity into a single network, thereby creating a social entity almost twice as large as the U.S. If Facebook were a country it would be the third largest, behind only China and India. It started out as a lark, a diversion, but it has turned into something real, something that has changed the way human beings relate to one another on a species-wide scale. We are now running our social lives through a for-profit network that, on paper at least, has made Zuckerberg a billionaire six times over.

With Facebook co-founders Dustin Maskovitz and Chris Hughes in 2003

Facebook has merged with the social fabric of American life, and not just American but human life: nearly half of all Americans have a Facebook account, but 70% of Facebook users live outside the U.S. It’s a permanent fact of our global social reality. We have entered the Facebook age, and Mark Zuckerberg is the man who brought us here.

Zuckerberg is part of the last generation of human beings who will remember life before the Internet, though only just. He was born in 1984 and grew up in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., the son of a dentist — Painless Dr. Z’s slogan was, and is, “We cater to cowards.”

Mark Zuckerberg in his baby days

Mark has three sisters, the eldest of whom, Randi, is now Facebook’s head of consumer marketing and social-good initiatives. It was a supportive household that produced confident children.

Mark Zuckerberg with his sister Randi in 2006

The young Mark was “strong-willed and relentless,” according to his father Ed. “For some kids, their questions could be answered with a simple yes or no,” he says. “For Mark, if he asked for something, yes by itself would work, but no required much more. If you were going to say no to him, you had better be prepared with a strong argument backed by facts, experiences, logic, reasons. We envisioned him becoming a lawyer one day, with a near 100% success rate of convincing juries.”

A lot of people feel as though they already know the 26-year-old Zuckerberg, thanks to the acclaimed movie “The Social Network,” which portrays Zuckerberg as socially stunted, calculating and arrogant. But Stengel told TODAY’s Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira that there’s more to the multibillionaire CEO.

The Social Network movie poster

In his in-depth profile of Facebook’s co-founder, Time’s Lev Grossman writes that “Zuckerberg is a warm presence, not a cold one. He has a quick smile and doesn’t shy away from eye contact. He thinks fast and talks fast, but he wants you to keep up. He exudes not anger or social anxiety but a weird calm. When you talk to his co-workers, they’re so adamant in their avowals of affection for him and their insistence that you not misconstrue his oddness that you get the impression it’s not just because they want to keep their jobs. People really like him.”

Inside Facebook headquarters

Another scene from Facebook headquarters

The majority of the photos used in this blog post are courtesy of TIME magazine. You can view more photos at TIME magazine’s website.

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Women across the globe are right now updating their Facebook statuses with where they like it. And the first thing that immediately comes to people’s mind is that the “it” must be “sex”.

“I like it on the floor,” “I like it on the couch,” “I like it on my desk”, “I like it on the counter”, “I like it on Facebook”,  “I like it on the bed”… you may have seen a lot of these Facebook status updates today.

But what is the “it”?

I like it on the.....

“It” is for “purse.” The Washington Post’s Melissa Bell explains:

Women are posting where they like to keep their purses when they come home, but they conveniently leave out the word “purse.”

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and the “I like it on” trend is an attempt for women to unite around that cause in a top secret way. The idea is literally to leave men in the dark.

This isn’t the first time a Facebook status update has gone viral. Last year the ladies of Facebook wrote the color of their bra – and nothing else – as their Facebook statuses. The random rumblings of “red,” “hot pink” or “electric blue lace” had men (and plenty of women) scratching their heads and wondering why ladies are putting a color in their Facebook status. The bra color Facebook status update went viral, also in support of raising breast cancer awareness.

Color of bra Facebook status

This time around women finishing this sentence: “I like it on the …” People are, as you’d expect, assuming this means where women like to have sex. In reality, they’re telling you where they set their handbag when they have to put it down.

But it’s not a natural phenomenon — it’s to raise awareness for serious illness. Whatever it is, it’s in lieu of actual fundraising. This makes sense: The domain of the social web is that things happen in lieu of anything actually happening.

This gives more validity to Malcolm Gladwell’s rant against social networking in the New Yorker last week.

Gladwell claims social networking increases participation by lowering the motivation that is required to effectively participate in anything. So instead of volunteering or giving money to, say, breast cancer awareness, you put a vaguely sexual remark in your status update, thereby participating in the cause with the minimal amount of effort.

This whole “linking” phenomenon is also paradoxical.

Gizmodo recently published a photo of the disgusting pink goop that eventually becomes chicken patties and nuggets. Almost 100,000 people have “liked” it. So we like the photo of the slop we eat? Or do we like “liking” something disgusting to be ironic? Who knows. Maybe we just like having the ability to like something on Facebook. Whatever it is, it definitely strengthens Gladwell’s “weak ties” argument.

If social networking has proved anything it’s that even in solitude in front of our computers we say we like something even though we really don’t.

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