Blogging Life: The History of Spam

Way back in 1864, unwanted messages were already finding a way to target people in an annoying manner. Telegraph lines were used to send fishy investment pitches to Americans wealthy enough to make it on a selected list. (Lucky them.)

In 1978, modern spam reared its ugly head on a computer network used by the military. Gary Turk sent an unwanted email advertising his hip new computers. The 400 targeted people were so upset and annoyed that no one tried this method of solicitation for years to come. 

In 1994, some lawyers spammed people for their law services, defended themselves in the name of free speech, and wrote a book called How to Make a Fortune on the Information Superhighway.

This brought to life more spam than anyone could have possibly imagined.

So in 2003, U.S. Congress showed they cared about our inboxes by passing the CAN-SPAM Act.

The Act Stated:

  • No one should use deceptive headings.
  • The sender’s valid postal addresses should be included. (This was confusing for me to navigate when I set up my email list and wanted to be semi-anonymous.)
  • The senders should notify people when an online interaction is an advertisement or solicitation.

Thanks, Congress. You tried.

Fast forward to now, and it is estimated 93% of comments on blogs are spam, while 78% of emails sent are spam.

According to one 2018 statistic, spam is estimated to cost U.S. businesses around $20.5 billion each year.

That’s just the loss of money. What about the loss of sanity?

Sprinkling Our Days With Spam

Editing out the spam on your blog shows your readers you monitor your site and take their comments seriously. As your blog gets more popular, you won’t get less spam - you’ll probably receive more of it. 

Whether you are a blogger or not, spam haunts the online world as a disorienting force of interruption. For me personally, it’s hard not to lose my train of thought as I delete nonsensical spam each night before going to bed. 

Spam first shows up as a momentary brain rush of recognition because I think there’s a comment on my blog. Then I find out it’s someone writing about credit restoration, the end of times, microchips in bodies, cheap chew toys, or a host of other bizarre topics built as click bate. 

That’s not what I want to go to bed thinking about. Maybe I should just watch something instead...

Thanks, Monty Python

The philosophy teacher I had in college drove home the main message in each of his lessons with a Monty Python sketch. I’ll be frank. I was less than amused. But one of those sketches was related to how spam got its name. 

“Unsolicited commercial e-mail” is the grown-up phrase we would have been doomed to use instead of “spam” if it weren’t for Monty Python. 

I was really excited to write more about this topic (not really, I kind of regretted it after about five minutes of research), but then I found out Business Insider beat me to it! Check out this video for a rundown of the Monty Python sketch and some other odd facts about spam. 

How do you deal with spam as a new or experienced blogger? Do you recommend any free or low-cost plug-ins?

How much spam do you think is out there? How do I get paid to write it myself (jk)?


12 Replies to “Blogging Life: The History of Spam”

    1. Thank you for stopping by today! The spam hasn’t been too bad on this post yet. I’m toying with the idea of leaving it up just for added entertainment.

  1. i don’t get too much on the blog. i get it in email, though. the filters thankfully get better and better. i’m more annoyed when i unsubscribe from stuff where i’m a customer and still get marketing junk. then i’ll hit the spam button for garbage from my internet provider and others. if i could spam them back i would.

    1. I think you would write great spam Freddy – if ever given the chance. Glad you don’t get much on your blog.

      I agree – email spam is the worst, but the filters for it are getting way better. That being said, I use Mailchimp for my email list and I’m pretty sure some of my emails for Savvy History go to the “promotional” or spam bucket. There are other email services that are better at not being processed as spam, but unless the blog gets bigger, I probably won’t look into those for awhile.

  2. I use the plugin Antispam Bee and I love it. About a year ago I started getting a lot of spam. Now it automatically goes into the spam folder based on parameters I set. Every week or so I quickly scroll through it. Maybe once a month there’s a legit comment stuck in there, but otherwise I just click Delete All. Love it.

    Anyway, really cool post as always. I had no idea about the history of spam or its name!

    1. Hey Purple! Thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the post and got something out of it.

      I will have to investigate what plugin I am using and compare it to Antispam Bee because I’m currently not that satisfied. I like the idea of it all going into a folder. I’m glad you scroll through weekly to catch those legit comments. I recognize the majority of people who comment on my blog at this point from social media. It’s still a sorting activity for me though and I need to create some systems to lessen the cognitive load.

  3. I get a whole bunch of spam comments on the blog but luckily it filters out to a ‘spam comment section’ that I could only see so I don’t have to worry about spam showing up live on my blog. Then when I have time, I’ll just permanently delete them.
    I also get a some spam on my blog email but as the same for my blog, it also filters out too to a ‘promotional’ folder.
    Yeah spam is really annoying. Just using up my time to delete them feels like it’s time wasted when I could do other productive things.

    1. I’m glad your spam seems under control Kris. Thumbs up! I probably have some settings I should look into to make sure it doesn’t go straight to the blog before I can filter it. For example, I just had to approve your comment and several others that have been sitting here for three days! (I’ve been consumed by taxes and kind of taking it easy on the blog.) But some people’s comments (and some spam) goes straight through whether I approve it or not. Basically, I’m always learning!

      Like you, I find the promotional folder to be a life saver. Imagine the collective amount of time wasted on spam dodging related activities. At least some online systems are starting to help us out.

  4. I also found it odd that we had to put a mailing address down when creating accounts for our email subscription lists. Now I know where that rule comes from! I think as a society we are becoming altogether too sensitized to spam. I have literally thousands of emails in my inbox that I can’t even contemplate taking the time to delete. They just go into my “mentally ignore” pile. It’s always fun creating a new email address and seeing how quickly it starts piling up with spam!

    1. Love the logo Elise! I didn’t notice that before, but it’s really cute and I’m glad WordPress pulled it through on your comment.

      I went on quite the tangent of research trying to figure out why MailChimp as a system wanted a physical address. I learned a lot going down that rabbit hole. Now I can appreciate their reasoning, but I still don’t like the breech of privacy on our end.

      Like you, I also have a “mentally ignore” pile. I don’t do the greatest at physically organizing my email now that life is busy with full time work and the little one. Maybe someday… because the disorganization drives me a little crazy if I start to think about it. At least most items are searchable now.

      Good luck to you on tackling that inbox!

  5. I don’t get much spam on the blog. The Akismet plugin on WP deals with that very well when it does come, so I’m grateful for that. I do get a bunch on email and try to actively manage it a couple times per month so it stays relatively clean and the filters, like Freddy says, keep getting better and better.

    I didn’t know about the MP thing so thanks for that fun fact!

    1. I like to dig up odd facts. Glad to hear you get something out of it!

      I’m pretty sure I have the same plugin. It’s pretty easy to spot the SPAM and file it away as such when it comes in. I still feel like I’m sorting through a hefty amount of it though, so I will have to investigate more if I don’t want to have to be diligent about deleting it each day.

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