Although many online users feel passionately about keeping the Internet free for all types of speech, that doesn't necessarily mean they want it delivered to their electronic mailbox.
In a report released yesterday, World Research announced the not-so-startling findings that most people do not like junk email. Almost half of the more than 1,000 respondents in the voluntary online survey went so far as to say they "hate" it, while a quarter said they find it "bothersome."
Spam has shut down several ISPs at different times when mass mailers use the services as a return path for their junk email. Both large online companies and individual hackers are pursuing different avenues of recourse to stop the flow of unwanted mail.
While ISPs use legal channels such as the courts and legislation, there have been at least two cases of hackers breaking into spammers' Web sites.
In the ongoing war between spammers and hackers, one of the most notorious figures is the so-called spam king: Sanford Wallace of Cyber Promotions. "Spamford," as Wallace prefers to be known, has had his Web site broken into by irate hackers twice.
As the numbers of Netizens grow, entrepreneurs such as Wallace will continue to target the coveted online demographic.
In a related study, Business Week announced that not only are the ranks of Netizens growing but also are Net users more affluent and educated than the general population.
Internet users now number around 40 million, 40 percent of whom have household incomes greater than $50,000 compared with 33 percent of the overall population.
With numbers like that, unsolicited commercial email is unlikely to stop anytime soon, regardless of how Netizens feel about it.