UPDATED: As if the constant deluge of spam filling inboxes were not intrusive
enough, a new report shows spammers are sending huge amounts of unsolicited
ads through instant messaging services, a practice known as spimming.
The report, conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project,
revealed that more than one-third of the 134 million American adults who use
the Internet, also use instant messaging services. Of those 52 million
people, nearly one-third have received unsolicited commercial through their
That means approximately 17 million adults have received the
instant-message version of spam.
“It is not surprising that they do this,” said Anne Mitchell, president
of the private Institute for Spam and Internet Public Policy. “The typical
spammer is absolutely going to exploit any possible soft spot, and the clever
ones, in it for the long haul, are going to create soft spots.”
Results from the telephone poll, conducted from Jan. 13 to Feb. 9, showed
that younger Internet users are more likely to get spim. That is probably
because they more often use instant messaging.
Nearly 40 percent of users under 30 who use instant messaging have gotten
spim. The number of users from aged 30 to 49 who have received spim is 27
The poll also showed that broadband users were not any more likely than
dial-up users to receive spim, even though those with broadband connections
often keep their instant message programs running for longer periods of time
than dial-up users, according to the report.
In all, 2,201 adults 18 and over took part in the telephone survey. The
results for the spim findings have a margin of error of +/- 5 percentage
The report comes the same week Federal prosecutors made the first
criminal case involving this new form of spam.
As reported by internetnews.com, Anthony Greco, 18, of Cheektowaga, N.Y. was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport, where prosecutors said they
lured him from his upstate New York home in a sting operation. He was
charged with violating the CAN-SPAM Act.
The survey did not ask what type of unsolicited commercial
messages were contained in the spim. But it did reflect the large difference in age groups that use instant messaging.
Sixty-six percent of Internet users under age 30 use instant messaging, whereas 35 percent do so who are over age 30. Internet users
from relatively poor households are among the most likely users of IM,
according to the study. Fifty-two percent of online adults who live in
households earning less than $30,000 use instant messaging.
Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, said
the correlation between low-income households and high instant messaging
usage is likely a result of young adults who are only beginning their