- Definition of “spam“
An electronic message is “spam” IF: (1) the recipient’s personal identity and context are irrelevant because the message is equally applicable to many other potential recipients; AND (2) the recipient has not verifiably granted deliberate, explicit, and still-revocable permission for it to be sent; AND (3) the transmission and reception of the message appears to the recipient to give a disproportionate benefit to the sender.
- Trivial or mechanized personalization such as “Dear Mr. Kavari, we see that you are the holder of the KAVARI.COM domain” does not make the personal identity of the recipient relevant in any way.
- Failing to click the “do not send me marketing literature by e-mail” button in a web sign-up form does not convey explicit permission. Only when the default result is “no follow-up e-mail” AND the inbox impact is clearly stated before any action which changes this result, can permission of this kind be conveyed.
- The appearance of disproportionate benefit to the sender, and the relevancy of the recipient’s specific personal identity, are authoritatively determined by the recipient, and is not subject to argument or reinterpretation by the sender.
- Non-personal e-mail always places a disproportionate cost burden on the recipient, and is considered to disproportionately benefit the sender unless it was verifiably solicited or by the recipient’s willing exception.
- A message need not be offensive or commercial in order to fit the
definition of “spam.” Content is irrelevant except to the extent
necessary to determine personal applicability, consent, and benefit.
- Our Principles:
- All e-mail communications must be consensual.
- No one should ever have to unsubscribe from a list they did not intentionally subscribe to.
- Basic Mailing List Management Terms and Conditions for Preventing Abuse:
Mailing lists have a long and venerable history on the Internet. Mailing lists are an excellent vehicle for distributing focused, targeted information to an interested, receptive audience. Consequently, mailing lists have been used successfully as a highly effective direct marketing tool. Unfortunately, mailing lists are also vulnerable to misuse through a variety of means. An all-too-common example is where an individual is forge subscribed to a high number of mailing lists and must take extraordinary measures to be removed. Also, some marketers misuse mailing lists, often through a lack of knowledge about longstanding Internet customs and rules, or because they attempt to apply direct paper mail methodology to the electronic realm. The guidelines below are intended to assist list administrators in establishing basic list management procedures that should help them avoid the most common pitfalls. Good list management also pays off in other ways such as maintaining a high response rate and reducing costs associated with complaint handling.
Those who desire to establish responsible list management practices must be aware that there are certain fundamentals inherent to the structure of the Internet, and to how the email system functions across the Internet. Among those that are pertinent to these guidelines are the following:
- Traffic on the Internet flows by mutual agreement. This is not a taxpayer-funded highway system. The Internet is a network of networks, interconnected in myriad ways. Most of the networks that compose the Internet are privately owned. When an entity connects its system to the Internet it immediately becomes dependent on others to see to it that its traffic reaches its destination. Those others in turn have a responsibility to their owners or shareholders to maintain their networks and keep traffic flowing smoothly. This fact gives network and system owners and operators considerable say over the traffic they allow to pass over their networks
- Internet entities are responsible for their own actions. Traffic flows from one network to another because of such things as peering agreements, where two networks agree to carry one another’s traffic. The Internet is made up of many interconnected peers; it is not only expected but necessary that those peers, and all those systems connecting to them, act responsibly. The larger the system, and the more traffic it desires to transit the network, the greater the expectations and responsibilities incumbent upon it.
- The recipient subsidizes the cost of delivery. This is not a postal mail or parcel system, where the sender pays the full cost of delivery. Every email box belongs to an individual, a group, an organization, perhaps a corporation; in any event, its existence is most often paid for by someone besides the sender of a message. This fact gives the recipient considerable say over what will be accepted for delivery, and it is why iway emphasizes that all communications must be consensual.
Terms And Conditions:
The following terms and conditions are offered as a statement of Internet standards and best current practices for proper mailing list management.
- Permission of new subscribers must be fully verified before mailings commence. This is usually accomplished by means of an email message sent to the subscriber to which s/he must reply, or containing a URL which s/he must visit, in order to complete the subscription. However it is implemented, a fundamental requirement of all lists is for verification of all new subscriptions.
- There should be alternative methods for terminating a subscription. Mailing list administrators should make an “out of band” procedure (e.g., an email address to which messages may be sent for further contact via email or telephone) available for those who wish to terminate their mailing list subscriptions but are unable or unwilling to follow standard automated procedures.
- There must be a simple method to terminate a subscription. Mailing list administrators must provide a simple method for subscribers to terminate their subscriptions, and administrators should provide clear and effective instructions for unsubscribing from a mailing list. Mailings from a list must cease promptly once a subscription is terminated.
- Undeliverable addresses must be removed from future mailings. Mailing list administrators must ensure that the impact of their mailings on the networks and hosts of others is minimized. One of the ways this is accomplished is through pruning invalid or undeliverable addresses.
- Mail volume must take recipient systems into account. List administrators must take steps to ensure that mailings do not overwhelm less robust hosts or networks. For example, if the mailing list has a great number of addresses within a particular domain, the list administrator should contact the administrator for that domain to discuss mail volume issues.
- Steps must be taken to prevent use of a mailing list for abusive purposes. The sad fact is that mailing lists are used by third parties as tools of revenge and malice. Mailing list administrators must take adequate steps to ensure that their lists cannot be used for these purposes. For example, administrators can maintain a “suppression list” of email addresses from which all subscription requests are rejected. Addresses would be added to the suppression list upon request by the parties entitled to use the addresses at issue. The purpose of the suppression list would be to prevent forged subscription of addresses by unauthorized third parties. Such suppression lists should also give properly authorized domain administrators the option to suppress all mailings to the domains for which they are responsible.
- Terms and conditions of address use must be fully disclosed. Mailing list administrators must make adequate disclosures about how subscriber addresses will be used, including whether or not addresses are subject to sale or trade with other parties. Also, conditions of use should be visible and obvious to the potential subscriber. For example, two lines buried deep within a license agreement do not constitute adequate disclosure.
- Acquired lists must be used for their original purpose. Those who are acquiring fully verified opt-in lists must examine the terms and conditions under which the addresses were originally compiled and determine that all recipients have in fact opted-in to the type mailing list the buyer intends to operate.
- The nature and frequency of mailings should be fully disclosed. List administrators should make adequate disclosures about the nature of their mailing lists, including the subject matter of the lists and anticipated frequency of messages. A substantive change in the frequency of mailings, or in the size of each message, may constitute a new and separate mailing list requiring a separate subscription.
- One subscription, one list. Addresses should not be added to other lists without fully verified consent of the address owner. It should never be assumed that subscribers to a list about foo want to be added to another foo list, let alone a list about goo. A notification about the new mailing list may be appropriate on the existing mailing list, but existing subscribers should never be subscribed automatically to the new list.