Democrats Email Opt-Out Violates CAN-SPAM

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The law of the land for sending mass email is called CAN-SPAM. It prescribes practices for spam and other mass emails. Most responsible mass emailers follow them. The Democratic Party, however, does not, and that's unfortunate.

The CAN-SPAM law made spam legal, but required that mailers allow people to opt-out. Some mailers, however, were creating complex processes, making it difficult for people to get their addresses removed. The FTC decided that mailers had to offer a simple, direct mechanism so people could make the mail stop.

In May of this year, the FTC issued guidelines to clarify the CAN-SPAM requirements. Their new rules say:

An e-mail recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her e-mail address and opt-out preferences, or take any steps other than sending a reply e-mail message or visiting a single Internet Web page to opt out of receiving future e-mail from a sender.

The Democratic Party, unfortunately, fails to follow this rule. Their mass mailings direct you to opt-out by going to http://www.democrats.org/page/unsubscribe.

Once there, you enter your email address that you want removed. According to CAN-SPAM, once you click the submit button your request should be processed.

Instead, the Democratic web site forces a confirmation. You are brought to a page that says:

To ensure the security of your account, we've sent you an email at the address you provided us. This email contains a 4-digit code that you will need to enter below. If you do not see the inbox within a couple of minutes, check your junk or bulk mail folder as your ISP may have incorrectly marked this message as spam.

This is not permitted by CAN-SPAM.

Even worse, the process doesn't work. I've tried twice, and I've yet to receive the magic cookie to make the mail stop. So I am unable to unsubscribe—the exact circumstance the FTC was working to avoid.

What the Democrats are doing doesn't just violate CAN-SPAM guidelines, it violates industry best practices. The best practice for handling list removal requests is to process them immediately, but email a confirmation message to the leaving subscriber. The message would notify the user in the rare case that the unsubscribe was unwanted or accidental, and could offer easy instructions to reactivate the subscription.

You'd think the Democrats could follow the laws they helped create, but here is the kicker: they don't have to. The rules apply to commercial mailers, not political organizations.

So strictly speaking, the Democrat's non-compliant unsubscribe process isn't illegal. But that doesn't make it right.

Comments

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Democrats' email "opt-out"

I have completed the "unsubscribe" process for the Democratic party's mailing list SIX times, yet I continue to receive their pleas for money. How "democratic" is that? How favorably inclined to donate do they think I am becoming as they repeatedly ignore requests to remove me from their spamming program?

My friend told me he wrote to

My friend told me he wrote to the campaign to ask about bumper stickers. They put him on the mailing list. He got tired of the spam. No one will remove him.
When Howard Dean was here on Friday, I signed up for what I thought was a local volunteer effort. I haven't heard from the local party (OK, it's a busy week here) but I started getting email by Sunday. I've been trying to get off of their mailing list using http://www.democrats.org/page/unsubscribe_confirm/AhdXWxdKAlELXXBSXARaDU...

I've waited for their supposed 'confirmation email' for the last half hour now, clicked about six times on their unsubscribe, tried various random codes,
and there's no response.

Are there any lawyers out there who would like to start a class action spam suit? I'm sure the FCC would love to get their hands on this one.

Re: CAN Spam

I subscribe to http://www.democrats.org for about 8 months now, the same happen to me , I CAN NOT UNSUBSCRIBE even i got the unsubscribe link over 12 times and clicked on my eudora e-mail , still receiving e-mails on a weekly basis, what can i do or should i do ? fill also a complaint to FCC, The FCC is directed by five Commissioners appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for 5-year terms, so it seems it can work if i fill a complaint.

Thanks,

Andy Colleman

Nice post--I linked to you

Our post linking to you.

Alas, AoC, I don't think going to the FCC is going to help. Note the last couple of paragraphs in this post--the rules don't apply to them, though they should. Unwanted mail from them is no less annoying than unwanted mail from a commercial enterprise.

Change You Can't Believe In...

I've tried to get my email address removed from the Democrats.org mailing list more than thirty (yes, 30) times over the past year using the above described click/confirmation mail procedure and still receive their unsolicited bulk e-mail, and can confirm that their unsubscribe process doesn't work. I have also tried emailing the Democrats.org webmaster, and even called the Democratic Party IT department directly at 202-863-8000 to request to be removed from their mailing lists. Despite all of these efforts I still cannot stop the unsolicited bulk email from the Democratic National Committee that floods my account. If the Democratic National Committee can't properly manage their own website, I can't help but be seriously concerned about their ability to govern a nation.

I had the same problem...

This worked for me, no confirmation code BS:
http://www.democrats.org/unsubscribe/index.html

Thanks. That page did accept

Thanks. That page did accept an email address and responded saying, "Thank you. You have now been unsubscribed." We'll see how it works.

Still can't subscribe...

That unsubscribe link with the confirmation code doesn't appear to be working either.
I just received two messages in my mailbox from Democrats.org today after trying to unsubscribe again yesterday.