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Spam: Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail (Email)

Last Edit: 10/01/17

Spam is the process of sending bulk duplicated messages across digital messaging systems, such as the Internet and the World Wide Web. Spam is sometimes used to refer to content which is simple duplicated. The common form of spam is email spam, although spam is increasingly clogging up the comments sections of website pages and discussion forums.

Spam is usually indiscriminate in nature, duplicated and continually sent to users regardless of whether they requested it; therefore spam is categorised as unsolicited. Spam messages tend to be commercial; therefore, they attempt to sell or promote something. Measures have been made in an attempt to combat spam, in the form of spam filters. However, spammers tend to find ways around these filters, and spam is still a serious worldwide issue. Likewise, search engines are also in a content battle to delete duplicated content; also referred to as spam.

Spam - at least in the United Kingdom - has legal repercussions for those who participate in it: anti-spam laws are outlined in the UK in the "Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003". Likewise most EU countries, the US, Canada and Australia have similar anti-spam laws, which means that spammers can be prosecuted and possible face incarceration. Sending spam also contravenes the rules of every Internet service provider in those countries, and will result in the termination of a users access account.

It would be fair to say that email spam has, and does, pose the most serious spam "issue". Email spam tends to be more sophisticated - due to the HTML encoding of email messages - which enables spammers to doctor messages to appear professional, convincing and alluring. Some email spam is referred to as "phishing": which is an attempt to garner the personal details of the recipient by making an email message appear to be official in nature: from a bank or government department etc.

History of Spam

E-mail spam - which is also referred to as junk email - is a message (identical in structure and content) that is sent to multiple recipients who did not solicit it. The message content does not adhere to any strict structure or topic, but on average they are commercial in nature.

Email spam can be very lucrative, so it comes as no surprise that is has grown in volume since the 1990's. Some reports suggest that email spam accounts for 75% of all email sent. The legality of spam varies from country to country. The United States declared email spam to be legal, but it must adhere to a set of rules.

Email clients and webmail now come with spam filtering to block spam email messages. The filters have had mixed results, and they can end up blocking solicited email messages. The brunt of the cost is borne by ISPs and the operator of webmail services. Both have successfully prosecuted spammers, but collecting damages has proved problematic. The cost of email spam has been estimated to be into the hundreds of millions of pounds per year to business.

In descending order, the most common topic of email spam tends to be,

Spammers create their recipient lists by using bots to harvest addresses. These bots search the World Wide Web, chat rooms and instant messaging programs to name but a few.