Pew 2007 Spam Survey

Pew has updated its periodic survey on user attitudes towards spam. Its conclusion:

Spam continues to plague the internet as more Americans than ever say they are getting more spam than in the past. But while American internet users report increasing volumes of spam, they also indicate that they are less bothered by it than before. Users have become more sophisticated about dealing with spam; fully 71% of email users use filters offered by their email provider or employer to block spam. Users also report less exposure to pornographic spam, which to many people is the most offensive type of unsolicited email. Spam has not become a significant deterrent to the use of email, as some observers speculated it might when unsolicited email first began flooding users’ inboxes several years ago. But it continues to degrade the integrity of email. Some 55% of email users say they have lost trust in email because of spam.

Deborah Fallows, the report writer, speculates on why users are less bothered by spam, She hypothesizes:

* users are receiving less porn spam

* users are savvier about identifying spam

* more users are using filters, hiding their email addresses and engaging in other smart practices

Interestingly, these explanations appear to be largely independent of legislative efforts to curb spam. Obviously CAN-SPAM targeted porn spam, and the FTC has brought some enforcement actions, but my gut tells me that any reduction in porn spam is due to improved technological filtering, not the law. Otherwise, it seems like technology and evolving social practices are helping users cope with spam.

Previous material on this topic:

* Spyware, the Pew Report, Anti-Terrorism Efforts and Coping with Spam

* Where’s the Beef? Dissecting Spam’s Purported Harms. Lamenting the passage of CAN-SPAM, I wrote:

Even if CAN-SPAM beneficially affects the flow of unwanted e-mails, any legislative solution seems inherently empty. Without legislative intervention, society will find ways to cope with spam, just as we have with other media. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs will continue to develop better tools to sort wanted and unwanted communications. Thus, more patience with the spam “problem” might have facilitated the development of superior results organically.