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de Freitas, S. and Levene, M. (2006) Spam. In: Ghaoui, G., (ed.) Encyclopedia of Human Computer Interaction. IGI Global, Hershey, PA, USA, pp. 553-558.

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With the advent of the electronic mail system in the 1970s, a new opportunity for direct marketing using unsolicited electronic mail became apparent. In 1978, Gary Thuerk compiled a list of those on the Arpanet and then sent out a huge mailing publicising Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC—now Compaq) systems. The reaction from the Defense Communications Agency (DCA), who ran Arpanet, was very negative, and it was this negative reaction that ensured that it was a long time before unsolicited e-mail was used again (Templeton, 2003). As long as the U.S. government controlled a major part of the backbone, most forms of commercial activity were forbidden (Hayes, 2003). However, in 1993, the Internet Network Information Center was privatized, and with no central government controls, spam, as it is now called, came into wider use. The term spam was taken from the Monty Python Flying Circus (a UK comedy group) and their comedy skit that featured the ironic spam song sung in praise of spam (luncheon meat)—“spam, spam, spam, lovely spam”—and it came to mean mail that was unsolicited. Conversely, the term ham came to mean e-mail that was wanted. Brad Templeton, a UseNet pioneer and chair of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has traced the first usage of the term spam back to MUDs (Multi User Dungeons), or real-time multi-person shared environment, and the MUD community. These groups introduced the term spam to the early chat rooms (Internet Relay Chats). The first major UseNet (the world’s largest online conferencing system) spam sent in January 1994 and was a religious posting: “Global alert for all: Jesus is coming soon.” The term spam was more broadly popularised in April 1994, when two lawyers, Canter and Siegel from Arizona, posted a message that advertized their information and legal services for immigrants applying for the U.S. Green Card scheme. The message was posted to every newsgroup on UseNet, and after this incident, the term spam became synonymous with junk or unsolicited e-mail. Spam spread quickly among the UseNet groups who were easy targets for spammers simply because the e-mail addresses of members were widely available (Templeton, 2003).

Item Type: Book Chapter
Publisher: IGI Global
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