Political Spam This Week: Mitt Romney (sigh)

It became obvious in the past week that the real story of political spam in this campaign doesn’t involve ESPs and legitimate bulk email. It involves snowshoe spam being sent either by U.S. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign, or a supporter. Whoever is sending this spam is sending much larger quantities of spam to purchased and other non-opt-in lists than all of the legitimate campaign mailing lists and ESPs combined.

Given the nature and types of the spam, I pretty much rule out a dirty trick by a campaign opponent pretending to be a supporter (called a “joe job” in the antispam world), although that is just barely possible. Spamhaus has finally caught on and is listing it, calling it snowshoe spam. From what I’m seeing, they’re (mostly) right.

This is more than a little disheartening. As an American, I must consider the totality of issues in this campaign when deciding who to vote for. I can’t just refuse to vote for a candidate because he uses sloppy or even immoral campaign practices. (As IMHO snowshoe spam is.) I am also aware that a candidate for U.S. President would not normally monitor the activities of their campaign staff in great detail. If the Romney campaign itself is behind the “Romney snowshoe” (as Spamhaus is calling it), chances are that Mitt Romney is unaware of it.

At the same time, I wish that the Romney campaign or its supporters were not behaving in a way that complicates voting decisions by introducing some question about the candidate’s people selection skills, judgment, and ethics. :/

Not surprisingly, the quantities of “legitimate” political spam continue to grow as the U.S. presidential campaign reaches its final stages. I had planned to blog daily, but simply can’t keep up and do other things. I’ll continue to make spot reports when I see something interesting, but will not try to provide a complete list.

3 Responses to Political Spam This Week: Mitt Romney (sigh)

  1. It comes down to the fact that politicians believe themselves immune to the necessity of generating opt-in lists, especially when they have access to email addresses from voter lists. The logic is that “political speech” is non-commercial and guaranteed by the first amendment, and therefore does not require opt-in. The prevailing mentality is that an email inbox is just like a postal mailbox, free and open to broadcast, just pay the postage. Spam-related problems are simply a cost of doing business.

  2. Feels good when you stop bashing your head against the wall, doesn’t it? 😉

    A small update on the Romney snowshoe. It isn’t just the Romney snowshoe, although at least 90% of the email before today was for the Romney campaign. Several of the ranges are sending campaign emails for other candidates and causes. Most appear to my untutored eye to be conservative in the U.S. sense. One range has also sent a bit of standard snowshoe credit repair spam and similar alongside the begging emails from Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, etc.

    I concur that this is a much more important issue than the careless practices of most political campaigns and ESPs. (Not just in the U.S. either; we get plenty of this trash in our mailboxes on our side of the pond as well.) Snowshoe spam is not even a little bit legitimate. A political campaign that sends it is forcing (not asking) recipients and others to pay its advertising costs, including those recipients who do not agree with them or even support their opponents.

    Entirely too many political operatives and some of those who work with them at ESPs feel entitled to ignore the usual rules and send opt-out bulk email to anybody they wish. That attitude stinks. However, as a practical matter they send only a tiny bit of spam compared to snowshoe spammers. Even when you account for the fact that the legitimate lists from ESPs have better deliverability than snowshoe spam does, the greater volume of snowshoe spam meant that it was bothering a great many more people. This was especially true in this case because we (like others) did not recognize that we were dealing with a snowshoe spam operation til it had been running for weeks. :/

  3. The election is over. The Romney snowshoe spam largely stopped after Spamhaus put the snowshoe spammer behind it, an entity named “Activate Direct”, in its ROKSO list. I’m more than a bit nonplussed, mostly because I wonder if the “real perpetrator” was the snowshoe spammer or Targeted Victory, Romney’s digital campaign. At least Spamhaus listed them as partners-in-spam with the snowshoe spammer.

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