I was recently taken to task for claiming that unsolicited bulk email was spam.
Spam is illegal and Spammers are criminal. Let’s not mess about with words here. Calling someone a spammer is inflamitory [sic].
I’m not arguing that sending unsolicited bulk email is anything other than bad. And that a lot of senders have a negative reaction to being called spammers. I’ve even had hate mail for saying that an ISP was blocking mail because recipients were saying the mail was spam.
In the US, though, spam is not illegal. Violating CAN SPAM is illegal and may result in civil or criminal penalties. Sending mail to recipients that never gave permission? Not illegal.
Is there a lot of spam out there that violates CAN SPAM? Absolutely. But that’s not the sum total of email. In fact, that’s very little of the email that recipients actually see. ISPs and filtering companies do a pretty good job at filtering out most of the illegal stuff.
There is a lot of social pressure to not be perceived as a spammer. There is much social pressure to not send mail people like.
And, yes, there are countries where it is illegal to send mail without opt-in permission. Ironically, one of those countries is the UK. Marketers in the UK have 3 or 4 of my email addresses and frequently send me unsolicited email, in violation of their laws. I’ve even blogged about some of it.