Spam is unsolicited electronic messages: it is the “junk-mail” of the Internet! Originally referring to e‑mails that you did not ask for, offering you products or services, it can be extended to include messages received via Instant Messaging, SMS or any other electronic messaging service. Most spam is a result of harmless but irritating bulk e-mail marketing campaigns, while a significant proportion represents attempts at social engineering.
Negative effects of spam
- Inboxes cluttered with spam lead to loss of productivity in the workplace
- Contributes to information overload
- Takes up storage capacity on server and client machines
- Consumes bandwidth
Dealing with spam
- Do not hand out your e-mail address unnecessarily or make it public (on Social Media sites etc).
- Do not reply to spam. This alerts the spammer to the fact that one of their messages reached an attended inbox (most of the spam messages are just deleted, spam-boxed or are sent to non-existent addresses).
- Set up a spam filter in your e-mail. Mark spam messages as spam so that the spam filter can “learn” how to identify spam more effectively.
- Some anti-virus programs include spam filters and there are dedicated utilities for filtering spam, eg MailWasher
- If you use an ISP for your e-mail, they may be able to help.
Is spam legal?
Like most legal matters, the answer is not a simple yes or no. The following South African law is relevant to the sending of unsolicited electronic messages:
- The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act
- The Consumer Protection Act
- POPIA (Protection of Personal Information Act) 
Some takeaways from the above links:
- Unsubscribe links must be added to all marketing campaigns so that the recipient can cancel further messages and/or revoke any permission they may have given for the messages to be sent.
- The sender is legally obliged to provide evidence of where the recipient consented to receive the messages if requested to do so.
- Continuing to send messages to someone once they have unsubscribed or indicated that they do not wish to receive any further communications is a criminal offence.