14 - SPAMSpam comes in three different flavors: junk mail, webspam and comment spam. The main purpose of spam is to get you to buy some sort of offering but it can also be used to boost traffic to specific websites and infect computers with malware.

Junk Email
Junk email is also known as spam, or if you’re not a fan of brevity, unsolicited bulk email. Most email that is sent is junk email; last year, 68% of all email sent was junk and this is actually down from 89% in 2010. Because junk email was so ubiquitous in the early days of the Internet, it was given the name “spam,” inspired from a Monty Python sketch.

Webmail providers, like Gmail, have become pretty good at blocking spam. If the occasional junk email message does get through, you can mark/flag/report it as spam. If you see a legitimate email in your spam folder, unmark it as spam. When you mark or unmark messages as spam, you are teaching Gmail and other webmail providers what kind of mail is junk so they get even better at automatically identifying it.

Could you imagine a website made up entirely of spam? “Scraper sites” are an example of that; they are websites that have stolen their articles or blog posts from other websites. Another example of webspam: websites that have articles written in such a generic way that they could be about any topic or product.

If you come across webspam, you can report it using Google’s Report Webspam page. If you use Web of Trust, or some other reputation system, you can report it there as well.

Comment Spam
Comment Spam appears in the comments section of websites and social media sites. These might not always be obvious. They might give out generic praise and a link to something supposedly relevant. The goal of comment spam is to direct the reader of the comment to click on the link to go to a spam or malware website.

If you come across spam in the comments section of your website or in your social network, you can flag it as spam. Depending on the social media network, you can report the person who posted the spam; you can also “unfriend” them (or the equivalent) or you can remove them from a group.

The Takeaway

  • Mark junk email as spam and remove spam mark from real email
  • Report spam/malware websites
  • Flag spam comments on social media websites as spam