Is spam haram?

We were recently having a discussion on what business practices are haram (i.e. forbidden by Islam) and what aren’t and the discussion came to marketing. A bribe in the usual sense is definitely haram, but do some common marketing and sales tactics, such as giving away free gifts to a select few, fall into this category? That would be a long and controversial discussion and I won’t go into it here, but it got me thinking about spam and what the religious point of view on it would be. Not the obscene type of spam that is already forbidden due to its content, but the practice of unsolicited mailing.

Since spam, or unsolicited email, doesn’t directly harm
anyone (as in threat to life or limb etc.), it would be tough to classify
it as haram. But since it is a major annoyance to the majority of people
receiving it, I guess it should at least be discouraged or classified as
makrooh (something strongly discouraged and the avoidance of which
will be rewarded).

How do you classify spam as haram? How about using this reasoning?

  • Since most spam is sent using other people’s bandwidth and servers
    without their consent, it tantamounts to theft and we all know how bad
    that is. Strike 1.
  • Since most of the advertised schemes are basically fraudulent, even
    if their own resources are used to send the spam, the spammers can’t
    claim legitimacy. Strike 2.
  • Lastly, spam is something invading your privacy and your personal
    space. Just as trespassing is punishable, so should spam be. Strike 3.
    Over and Out

A large portion of spam I get these days originates from within
Pakistan. A number of customers also serve to make my life miserable by
relaying spam through our servers (until blocked), choking the email
queues and hogging the bandwidth. Maybe if it can be declared as haram,
we can get a fatwa issued against spammers and have religious
backing in eradicating this filthy practice. Not that it would bother
spammers much, but it might make the recipients do something about it
rather than just sit back and accept things the way they are.