Unsolicited electronic advertising, or spam, has become an increasingly common nuisance to anyone with an email account. Spam is essentially electronic junk mail. Those who send spam may purchase email lists, or they may use technology that sends to random email names in a particular domain name (in much the same way computerized telemarketing will dial different telephone numbers at random). Spam may advertise anything at all from magazines to electronic equipment to travel packages. One of the most pervasive, and offensive, uses of spam is advertising of pornographic websites and literature.
Spam is popular with advertisers because it is convenient and because it costs a fraction of what mass mailings cost. With an actual mailing, the advertiser has to pay for paper, printing, and postage. With email advertisements, none of those costs exists. As with telemarketing, the danger of offending potential customers is offset many times over by the number of new customers who see email marketing as a convenient way to receive information.
A number of companies offer spam-filtering services that are designed to identify mail that looks like spam and prohibit its delivery. Usually the spam is stored where the would-be recipient can view it at his or her leisure and delete as necessary. Some Internet service providers (ISPs) also offer anti-spam functions. Electronic communication experts recommend that those who wish to minimize the amount of spam they get can send complaints to the ISP’s postmaster (for example, if the domain name is sample.com, the complaint would be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.) Often the ISP has no idea that a customer is using spam and will be only too happy to remove that client from its roster. Replying to a spam message, even when there are instructions for getting off of a list, is not recommended because even an angry note tells the sender that they have reached a live person, and they may continue to send spam anyway.