The name comes from a Monty Python sketch in which the name of the canned pork product Spam is ubiquitous, unavoidable, and repetitive. Email spam has steadily grown since the early 1990s, and by 2014 was estimated to account for around 90% of total email traffic.
The legal definition and status of spam varies from one jurisdiction to another, but nowhere have laws and lawsuits been particularly successful in stemming spam.
Most email spam messages are commercial in nature. Whether commercial or not, many are not only annoying as a form of attention theft, but also dangerous because they may contain links that lead to phishing web sites or sites that are hosting malware or include malware as file attachments.
Spammers collect email addresses from chat rooms, websites, customer lists, newsgroups, and viruses that harvest users' address books. These collected email addresses are sometimes also sold to other spammers.