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Definition: spam1 from The Penguin English Dictionary

messages, esp inappropriate or unsolicited ones, sent to a large number of users or newsgroups on the Internet [from a sketch featuring Spam in the British television comedy programme Monty Python].


Summary Article: spam
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

In computing, unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE) sent in bulk, the name deriving from a sketch in the Monty Python 1970s television show. In 2006 the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) estimated that 80% of all Internet traffic was spam mail, with many of the messages relating to sexual enhancements or pornography. In addition, spam has been used to spread viruses and worms around the world. A study carried out for the European Union (EU) estimated that the worldwide cost of spam to Internet users (both business and domestic) was about US$10 billion per year.

On 1 January 2004, the US government's Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act came into force, under which recipients of spam could ‘opt out’ by requesting that their names be removed from spammers' lists. The member states of the EU, on the other hand, adopted a Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications in July 2002, prohibiting the sending of spam unless e-mail users had ‘opted in’. As a ‘directive’, this had to be enacted into the laws of the various EU member states to take effect, which happened in the UK in December 2003. As over 75% of spam received in the UK originated in the USA, however, it was feared that the new law might not be effective.

Proposals to fight spam by verifying the e-mail addresses of senders were put forward in early 2004 by Microsoft (Caller ID for E-mail), Yahoo (Yahoo Domain Keys), and America OnLine (Sender Permitted From). These companies were the founders of the Anti-Spam Technical Alliance in April 2003.

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