E-mail can be used as a productive tool for communicating and sharing information. However, all tools can be misused or abused, and email is no exception. Several examples of inappropriate e-mail uses are as follows:
Spamming: Sending nearly identical messages to thousands (or millions) of recipients by e-mail...without the permission of the recipients. (Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spam_(email), 2006)
Flaming: A public post or email message that expresses a strong opinion or criticism. Flames can be fun when they allow people to vent their feelings, and then return to the topic at hand. Others are simply insulting and can lead to flame wars. (Albion.com, Netdictionary, http://www.netdictionary.com/html/index.html, "flame", 2000)
Trolling: (also known as flame bait) An inflammatory post that is designed to provoke a flame war or flame responses. (Albion.com, Netdictionary, http://www.netdictionary.com/html/index.html, "flame bait", 2000) Trolling is basically sending messages that contain statements intending to bait an argument or confrontation.
Phishing: A form of criminal activity using social engineering techniques to fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy person or business in an electronic communication. (Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phishing, 2006)
Some of the above types of messages may be legal, even if they’re a bother. Others may be illegal. Messages that continue after the recipient asks that they stop are defined as a nuisance and are illegal. Nuisance messages that are threatening or intimidating are termed harassment and are even more severe. It is interesting to note that nuisances and harassment are defined by the receiver of a message, not by the sender. That is, if you ask me to stop sending you messages, I have to even if I don't think there's anything wrong with my messages.