Spam drives people away from Net

October 24, 2003, 12:10 BST

A new report says the tide of spam is turning people off the Internet - though 7 percent admit to having purchased a good or service touted in an unsolicited email

The billions of spam messages that cross the Internet daily are beginning to erode users' faith in email communications, according to a report released on Wednesday.

Half of all Internet users say spam has made them less trusting of all email in general, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found, while one in four say they now use email less because of spam.

The nonprofit group's June survey of 1,400 Internet users found that most feel they can do little to block the billions of get-rich-quick schemes, ersatz painkillers, and other unwanted pitches that arrive in their inboxes on a daily basis.

More than half said the flood of spam makes it difficult to find messages they do want.

Spam now comprises roughly half of all email messages, according to several estimates, costing businesses billions of dollars in wasted bandwidth and lost productivity.

Most respondents said they did not post their email addresses to Web sites in an effort to keep off spammers' lists, and many said they used filters to block spam at work or home.

But others admitted to behaviour likely to perpetuate the problem. Some 7 percent said they had bought a product or service that was offered in an unsolicited email, while one-third said they had clicked a link to get more information.

Two-thirds said they had clicked a link to be removed from a spammer's email list, an activity consumer advocates say serves only to generate more spam.

The Senate was debating an anti-spam measure on Wednesday, and several similar bills have been introduced in the House of Representatives.