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Trouble For Political E-Mail

PoliticsThis could be bad news for political parties and candidates. The dirty little secret of e-mail and CAN-SPAM is the fact that political e-mail doesn’t count. CAN-SPAM applies to “commercial” messaging, not to “all” messaging. So political e-mails are considered political speech and therefore are not considered spam.

Now political parties have shown remarkable restraint (something uncommon in politics) in not adding every man woman and child in the US to their mailing list (the way they have with direct mail and telemarketing). This is largely because they have feared the corporate gatekeepers – the IT guys that apply the spam filters.

Most corporations have exempted political mail because they recognize it does get a pass from CAN-SPAM. However, if that law no longer applies to what you can and cannot bar from your servers, then this decision may move some to begin blacklisting political e-mailers.

As it is, the major parties have relationships with the ISP (either directly or through their vendors) that keep the pipes clear. This ruling, however, could give ISPs the green light to shut them down if their customers complain. I expect that to happen. The only thing that may prevent the shutdown would be a wholesale change in the way parties communicate, or a fear among ISPs that the SCOTUS may feel that shutting off political e-mail would violate the first amendment rights of the parties.

Either way, I think the GOP had better be thinking of the application that gets them around e-mail – whether that’s a Yahoo! Widget or something else.

Written by Michael Turk