E-mail spam, also known as "bulk e-mail" or "junk e-mail," is a subset of spam that involves nearly identical messages sent to numerous recipients by e-mail. A common synonym for spam is unsolicited bulk e-mail (UBE). Definitions of spam usually include the aspects that email is unsolicited and sent in bulk. "UCE" refers specifically to "unsolicited commercial e-mail."
E-mail spam has existed since the beginning of the Internet, and has grown to about 90 billion messages a day, although about 80% is sent by fewer than 200 spammers. Botnets, virus infected computers, account for about 80% of spam. Laws against spam have been sporadically implemented, with some being opt-out laws and others being opt-in. The total amount of spam has leveled off slightly in recent years. The cost of spam is borne mostly by the recipient, so it is a form of postage due advertising.
E-mail addresses are collected from chatrooms, websites, newsgroups, and viruses which harvest users address books, and are sold to other spammers. Much of the traffic is sent to invalid e-mail addresses. ISPs have attempted to recover the cost of spam through lawsuits against spammers, although they have been mostly unsuccessful in collecting damages despite winning in court.