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Definition: unsolicited and unwelcome advertisements sent to people via e-mail or posted in newsgroups. “Spammers” have discovered that they can reach a large audience at low cost on the Internet by posting the same message to all available newsgroups or e-mailing it to all possible addresses. Spamming is considered seriously unethical for two reasons. First, newsgroups and e-mail would be useless if they routinely contained unwanted material. Second, the cost of transporting e-mail and newsgroup postings is not paid by the sender; it is paid by the recipient’s site and other sites along the way. Thus, it is important not to impose expenses on people by sending them unwanted material. In some places, spamming by e-mail is illegal, and there is a strong movement to prohibit it everywhere. More importantly, almost all Internet service providers (ISPs) flatly prohibit both e-mail and newsgroup spam. The few ISPs that allow spamming are ostracized by other sites, which refuse to accept any data from them. Experts advise that you should never reply to spam, even to ask to be taken off the mailing list, because that will merely tell the spammer that he has hit a valid address.
Source: Downing, Douglas, et al. Dictionary of Computer and Internet Terms. 10th ed. New York, 2009. Print.