Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms


Cite this article as:
Luca Belli (17/12/2021). Spam. In Belli, L.; Zingales, N. & Curzi, Y. (Eds.), Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms (online). FGV Direito Rio.

Author: Luca Belli

The concept of ‘spam’ refers to any kind of unsolicited digital communication that is usually dispatched in bulk. Hence spam is any messages sent to multiple recipients who did not ask for them.

As pointed out by the Internet Society (2018)1, the main problems caused by spam are due to the combination of the unsolicited and bulk aspects; the quantity of unwanted messages swamps messaging systems and drowns out the messages that recipients do want.

The first example of Spam was sent via the ARPANET in 1978. The spam was an advertisement for a new model of computer from Digital Equipment Corporation and it created a strong precedent as the communication succeeded in increasing the purchase of advertised equipment.

Some legislation, such as EU Directive 2000/31/EC2 on electronic commerce, utilizes the concept of ‘unsolicited electronic communications’, which cover most sorts of ‘spam’ but leaves out all politically motivated unsolicited communications.

Importantly, the use of ‘electronic communications’ is intended to cover not only traditional SMTP – based ’email’ but also SMS and any form of electronic messages for which the simultaneous participation of the sender and the recipient is not required.


  1. Internet Society. (2018). What is spam? Available at:
  2. Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market. EU Directive on electronic commerce, OJ L 178/1, 17.7.2000. Available at:
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By Luca Belli

Luca Belli, PhD, is Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) Law School, where he heads the Center for Technology and Society (CTS-FGV) and the CyberBRICS project, and associated researcher at Centre de Droit Public Comparé of Paris 2 University. He is co-founder and co-coordinator of the IGF Coalition on Platform Responsibility and Director of the Latin- American edition of the Computers Privacy and Data Protection conference (CPDP LatAm). Before joining FGV, Luca worked as an agent for the Council of Europe Internet Governance Unit and served as a Network Neutrality Expert for the Council of Europe. He is author of more than 50 academic publications which have been quoted by numerous media outlets, including The Economist, Financial Times, Forbes, Le Monde, BBC, The Hill, China Today, O Globo, Folha de São Paulo, El Pais, and La Stampa. Luca holds a PhD in Public Law from Université Panthéon-Assas, Paris 2.

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