“It’s not spam when I send it”

by Walter Olson on February 3, 2006

“Attorney general Charlie Crist was an integral player in getting an anti-spam law passed last year in the state of Florida. Under the law, offenders are subject to fines of up to $500 for every e-mail sent. Now running for governor, someone on the Crist campaign is responsible for sending e-mails to promote the candidacy and solicit campaign donations. Recipients have reportedly attempted to unsubscribe without success.” A Crist spokeswoman says the emails don’t count as spam because they’re not deceptive. (Clickz blog, Jan. 9; Adam C. Smith, “Crist e-mail draws ire”, St. Petersburg Times, Dec. 21; “From anti-spam stand to e-mail campaign”, AP/Miami Herald, Dec. 23; Brian McWilliams, Dec. 24; Geek.com). For more on anti-spam laws and related issues, see, e.g., Jul. 25, 2005 and Dec. 3, 2003.

{ 1 comment }

1 markm 02.06.06 at 5:30 pm

Assuming “not deceptive” includes using an undisguised and unchanging sender address, then Crist has a point. It’s the spammers that adopt a thousand false names and sender addresses that clog up the e-mail, not the non-deceptive ones. Nearly all e-mail servers now allow the user to identify senders of unwanted mail and have everything from that sender blocked. It’s actually easier than unsubscribing, even when unsubscribe works (although identifying someone to your e-mail service as a spammer has wider consequences, so don’t do it just because you changed your mind about a mailing list you once opted to join).

However, just how stupid does a politician have to be to annoy voters with repeated unwanted begging messages? The usual theory of spammers is that they can offend 99.999% of the recipients of their mail, because it costs them nothing to offset profits from the 0.001% that buy the advertised product. This only holds if there is practically no chance that the other 99.999% might have “bought” without being spammed – e.g., if GM or Walmart authorized spamming on their behalf they would lose many more customers than they gain, and I have to think that Crist is losing votes.

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