Email spam, also known as junk email or unsolicited bulk email (UBE), is a subset of electronic spam involving nearly identical messages sent to numerous recipients by email. Definitions of spam usually include the aspects that email is unsolicited and sent in bulk. One subset of UBE is UCE (unsolicited commercial email). The opposite of "spam", email which one wants, is called "ham", usually when referring to a message's automated analysis (such as Bayesian filtering). Like other forms of unwanted bulk messaging, it is named for Spam luncheon meat by way of a Monty Python sketch in which Spam is depicted as ubiquitous and unavoidable.
Email spam has steadily grown since the early 1990s. Botnets, networks of virus-infected computers, are used to send about 80% of spam. Since the expense of the spam is borne mostly by the recipient, it is effectively postage due advertising.
The legal status of spam varies from one jurisdiction to another. In the United States, spam was declared to be legal by the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 provided the message adheres to certain specifications. ISPs have attempted to recover the cost of spam through lawsuits against spammers, although they have been mostly unsuccessful in collecting damages despite winning in court.
Spammers collect email addresses from chat rooms, websites, customer lists, newsgroups, and viruses which harvest users' address books, and are sold to other spammers. They also use a practice known as "email appending" or "emending" in which they use known information about their target (such as a postal address) to search for the target's email address. Much of spam is sent to invalid email addresses. Spam averages 78% of all email sent. According to the Message Anti-Abuse Working Group, the amount of spam email was between 88–92% of email messages sent in the first half of 2010.
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