The economics of spam: How it affects everyone



Spam is defined as email that is unsolicited by the recipient. Aside from the annoyance factor, spam is a significant problem and can be a pricey one. Spam clogs up bandwidth space and this is costly to ISP's, businesses and consumers. Additionally, it also causes issues with computer and/or network performance. Not to mention how it severely impacts the legitimate organizations or individuals sending out large email distributions.

Image credit: tesatool0/Pixabay

Most email is spam

Statistics suggest about 80 - 90 percent of all email sent on the Internet is spam. Due to the mass amount of emails spammers send and the subsequent reaction to spam, a lot of restriction has been created for the population of legitimate users. Valid emails get tagged as spam and businesses must find ways to effectively use online tools as marketing devices without being labeled as a spammer.

Time consuming and costly

Dealing with spam is a nuisance, and one can simply click the delete key, but the time spent in doing this is also costly as it equates to financial losses when people spend a lot of time sorting through emails and either reading, reporting or deleting spam. A substantial issue with spam is that the cost is to the user and not to the sender. The sender gets free advertising at no cost, hurling out millions of messages and, if even a handful respond, it's quite lucrative for them. So they continue their strategy with their bombardment of email, at the cost of the rest of us.

There have been many suggestions thrown about in determining ways to battle against unsolicited email, but none have been able to effectively address the problem. It has come to the point that the inundation of spam has become not just a technological issue for organizations, but a management one as well.

Although protective measures can be installed in order to remove spam from the primary mailbox, employees often have to read through spam folders anyway since legitimate business emails that need addressing and/or responding to can be inadvertently filtered out. In my last non-freelance job, I had to routinely check the organization's spam mail or miss important inquiries.

Then there are the virus and spyware issues to deal with in relation to putting protective measures on systems which are costly. In the aforementioned position I worked in, I can recall the time the organization's system was shut down for three days due to a worm presumably started in email.

No end in sight?

Spam is a huge headache for organizations and an important enough issue where it needs to be addressed. Users must be acutely aware of the damage that spam can do when they receive emails that are designed to look legitimate and enticing and familiar enough to get users to enter personal information.

Ultimately, spam affects not only businesses, but everyone. Networks are slowed down, computer security issues have increased, "phishing" and "spoofing" are all too common, and a lot of time and money is spent in legislation and discussion on how to deal with spam. Businesses and government organizations must spend considerable time addressing the issue of spam when they could be productively spending time on other matters.


As for laws, technology evolves so quickly and by the time anything gets through legislation, technology has long moved on. Spamming quickly spread to mobile and with other devices connecting to the web, how long will it be until other forms of communication are affected as well? The legal process is too slow to keep up with the changes, and technology is too progressive to wait for it to catch up. Thus the cycle continues.

To take the time to wait and see the effects of technology, and deal with the passing of laws (which may or may not help) can be a long process. Government typically then passes laws to counter-act and we'll end up with a large web of laws that can't effectively be enforced because the Internet is a global environment with no defined border. Spam has a lot of economical impact on society on a multitude of levels. All of which equates to cost to business, taxpayers and any consumers.

Although spam causes all sorts of issues, the biggest problem with it is finding a feasible solution to effectively resolve it. As simple as it sounds, sometimes it appears solutions aren't so easy . . .

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