Spam is the common term for "junk email." There are different definitions for it—from the very specific to the very general ("anything I don't want!"). The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 defines spam as "any unsolicited email message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service."
When advertisements arrive in your inbox for things like low-rate mortgages, miracle drugs, or cheap long distance services, you have been spammed. Spam often advertises suspicious products or "get rich quick" promotions. It is sent out at an extremely low cost to the sender, forcing most of its expenditure onto the Internet Service Providers, and thus, paying consumers.
Spam mailing lists can be created in a number of ways. Spammers will often pay top dollar for mailing lists with verified e-mail addresses.
Spammers also use a variety of "bots," that scour the Internet looking for e-mail addresses posted to websites and message boards. It is very difficult to avoid ending up on a spam mailing list, because marketers are so willing to pay for the information.
The CAN SPAM Act of 2003
New legislation has been enacted that is designed to protect you from the continued onslaught of spam.
Also known as the CAN SPAM Act, the "Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003" took effect on January 1, 2004, establishing a set of strict guidelines that spammers must follow in order to continue their practices legally.
In-depth information about the CAN SPAM Act can be found in this summary.
The Florida Electronic Mail Communications Act
On May 25, 2004, Governor Bush signed into law the Electronic Mail Communications Act.
In effect as of July 1, 2004, the new legislation carries no criminal penalties, only civil. In addition to other provisions, the bill prohibits commercial electronic mail messages that falsely identify the origin or identity of the sender or contain false or misleading information in the subject line.
More information about the Act can be found at this summary.
Some Tips to Help You Deal With Spam E-mail
Some providers may offer a filtering option for your email account. Check with your specific Internet Service Provider to see what options are available. Below are a few additional suggestions that can help you keep your inbox spam-free.
Wired magazine has an interesting discussion of how anti-spam software works.
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