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Spam Explained
Quick Guide

The Definition of Spam

The word "Spam" as applied to Email means Unsolicited Bulk Email ("UBE").

Unsolicited means that the Recipient has not granted verifiable permission for the message to be sent. Bulk means that the message is sent as part of a larger collection of messages, all having substantively identical content.

A message is Spam only if it is both Unsolicited and Bulk.

  • Unsolicited Email is normal email
    (examples include first contact enquiries, job enquiries, sales enquiries, etc.)
  • Bulk Email is normal email
    (examples include subscriber newsletters, discussion lists, information lists, etc.).
This distinction is important because the Direct Marketing Association, the pro-junk group who lobby on behalf of the junk email industry, try to dupe politicians into thinking anti-spam organizations want "Unsolicited Email" banned, in order to dupe policitians into voting against anti-spam laws.

Technical Definition of "Spam"

An electronic message is "spam" IF: (1) the recipient's personal identity and context are irrelevant because the message is equally applicable to many other potential recipients; AND (2) the recipient has not verifiably granted deliberate, explicit, and still-revocable permission for it to be sent; AND (3) the transmission and reception of the message appears to the recipient to give a disproportionate benefit to the sender.

Other Reference Documents

Webster's Dictionary:
Mail Abuse Prevention System (MAPS): Spam Definition Document:'s 'Spam Defined' Document: