January 3, 2003 10:25 AM PST

Net's New Year resolution: Outlaw spam

Rising angst over junk e-mail has the majority of the Internet population in favor of outlawing it, a new study shows.

Web users are more annoyed than ever


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by the continuous flood of unsolicited bulk e-mail sent to in-boxes every day; 80 percent of Internet users surveyed said they are "very annoyed" by spam, compared with only 49 percent who responded similarly two-and-a-half years ago, according to the latest Harris Poll. As a result of their irritation, an estimated 74 percent are proponents of making bulk e-mail illegal, while only 12 percent are opposed to banning it.

Spam has grown by gigantic proportions in the last year. According to e-mail filtering company Brightmail, the number of spam attacks grew from nearly 2 million in November 2001 to about 5.5 million in the same period of 2002. Each spam attack represents a unique mass mailing of commercial messages.

The crush of spam has cost companies enormously as well. A new study expected Monday estimates that the annual cost of spam to U.S. corporations is $8.9 billion and $2.5 billion for European businesses. U.S. and European service providers shoulder another $500 million in costs, according to market researcher Ferris Research. The figures were reported by the Associated Press.

To tally the figures, researchers factor in the loss of employee productivity in deleting junk e-mail, as well as costs for added bandwidth, technical staff, and servers to support junk mail.

The Harris Poll, which was conducted online by market researcher Harris Interactive, surveyed 2,221 adults, over the age of 18, during the period of Nov. 22 to Dec. 2, 2002.

According to the survey, respondents said that they were most annoyed by pornographic junk mail, followed by financially related pitches.

While consumers' frustration for spam went up, it softened for other common gripes about the Internet, including Web surfing speeds. Those who were typically miffed by "how long it takes to find the Web sites you need" fell from 20 percent to 10 percent, for example. The responses were largely the result of broadband adoption, the report said.

 

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