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Spam - Definition

Spam can be considered any unwanted electronic message, typically sent to multiple users via email, instant messenger, or Usenet newsgroup in order to advertise a company or service. Most email services now offer filters intended to block spam, but no anti-spam application devised heretofore has been perfect. Efforts to litigate against spam are ongoing in the U.S. (e.g., the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003) and abroad. The first unwanted email was probably sent in 1978, but the term "spam" was not applied to the unethical practice until the late 1980s. It derives from an unpleasant homage to a famous Monty Python sketch, in which a restaurant offers so many SPAM dishes that Vikings appear to sing the product's praises. Pranksters on electronic bulletin boards would sometimes repeat the word "SPAM" to crowd out other users' legitimate messages. Two lawyers, Laurence Carter and Martha Siegel, have the dubious distinction of being the first commercial spammers; they bombarded Usenet with immigration law advertisements in March of 1994. Interestingly, Hormel Foods Corporation does not object to the use of "spam" to mean unsolicited email, just so long as the word is not capitalized. That's because SPAM brand canned meat is properly spelled in all-caps.


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