Before Charles blogged about the spam he had received from Herman Cain’s campaign this morning, he emailed me and asked if political spam qualified for mention on the blog. The answer was “yes”, qualified only by the requirement that the spam be from the sender’s own IPs or sent via a legitimate ESP. On thinking about this, I realized that a public policy statement might be in order.
A few years ago an antispammer I know emailed me a link to a blog by an ESP representative, D. J. Waldow at ESP Bronto Marketing. In his blog, Waldow comments on something called “re-engagement strategy” at a web-based online mall, Shop.org. I think Waldow has since left Bronto, but the blog is still there. I’m normally a bit allergic to marketing-speak, but this blog is good and is still worthy of attention. Read it here:
This blog is an experiment. A group of long-time anti-spam professionals and activists want to see whether documenting spam sent by (otherwise) legitimate companies is useful enough to be worth doing. Obviously, we hope to convince these companies and their ESPs not to send bulk email to users who did not request that email. We also hope to publicize those companies that persist in sending spam, and perhaps make that an issue for individuals and companies who might want to do business with the spamming company. Finally, we are sick and tired of seeing companies who should know better sending spam to us and to others who did not ask for it, and want to vent.
Spam sent openly by legitimate companies that use either their own IPs or a recognized legitimate ESP to send it is a tiny portion of the spam that is sent. It is a much larger portion of the spam that ends up in user inboxes, however. Blacklists are hesitant to block legitimate companies or ESPs, even when they have solid spam evidence, because those companies and ESPs also send a great deal of email that is solicited and wanted by users. Users are often unsure whether they might have asked for the spam, or simply are so sick of spam that they don’t bother to complain. So this spam is often a greater annoyance to users than much more prolific varieties of spam that almost always are blocked or sent to the user’s junk mail folder.
Fortunately, unlike other spammers, legitimate companies and ESPs usually care about their reputation. We hope that those who are spamming and are mentioned here will care enough to do something about the problem.