Pew: Spam Going Up, Impact Going Down

A new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that the amount of spam landing in Americans’ email accounts is still growing, but fewer people are complaining about the level of unwanted email, or citing spam as a “big problem.” The results suggests that Americans increasingly view spam as an annoying fact of life—much like bad weather.

“Despite increased volumes of spam for some people,” writes Senior Research Fellow Deborah Fallows, author of the report, “American internet users seem somewhat less bothered by spam than before.”

According to the study, 37 percent of U.S. email users say they are receiving more spam and junk email in their personal accounts, while 29 percent report an increase in their work email accounts—although, intriguingly, about half reported they hadn’t noticed a change in overall spam volume. And perhaps more interestingly, 28 percent of Internet users say spam is not a problem for them at all, up from just 16 percent in June of 2003. Along the same lines, in June 2003 fully one quarter of Internet users reported spam was a “big problem” for them; now, that number has declined to 18 percent.

The report also finds that pornography-related spam seems to be declining in favor of spam promoting drugs, bogus investments, and (of course) phishing schemes trying to trick users out of passwords and account information. According to the report, Internet users are in general much smarter about dealing with spam, with 71 percent of respondents using filters from their employer or email provider, 41 percent using their own filters, and 44 percent saying they’ve taken steps to make it more difficult for others to find their email address online.

Despite the report’s findings that antispam measures are helping some email users cope with the spam epidemic, it does not seek to play dow the overall impact of spam, noting that among the 18 percent who said spam was a “big problem,” 37 percent said spam caused them to use email less, and 52 percent of all Internet users said spam has made them less trusting of Internet mail in general.

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