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Untitled Document

What is SPAM?

Just because you think a lot of people are going to want to read your email, that does not mean your email isn't spam! We've outlined some common definitions for you and will help point you in the right place to determine if your email is not spam.

To summarize:

  • Send email only to people that have expressly confirmed with you that they want to get it.
  • Send email to customers, group members, and newsletter recipients.
  • Send email confirming transactions, notifying of upgrades, outlining services, and in other ways relevant to your organization.


  • Do not send email to "opt-in" lists you have bought unless you have a date for the confirmation of each opt-in permission, and a source indicating where the person opted in. True opt-in lists are very expensive per address. The rest are scams.
  • Do not send email to web harvested email addresses.
  • Do not send email with promotions not relevant to your relationship with your customers or group members.

A litmus test for deciding what is spam

We define "spam" to be any email sent to someone not expecting to receive it, and some questions you can use to determine if a message is spam or not are:

  1. Does the email include a valid non-free email address checked by a real person?
  2. If I reply to the email and ask a question, can I expect a personal reply?
  3. Does the message contain a phone number that someone actually answers during most of the day?
  4. Does the person receiving the message have some way of contacting the sender or the sender's company in order to reach a live person to assist with a problem?
  5. Do you communicate how the recipient signed up for the email so they can recognize the source clearly?

Most important: Your email needs to communicate to the recipient that the answer to all of the questions above is yes. Otherwise, the recipient is likely to complain! And a complaint can get you bumped off your ISP even if your mail wasn't SPAM. Note that you can still mail to strangers with the above questions. But our opinion is that, if the answer to all of the questions above is clearly "yes" and the email conveys this fact, then you're probably safe.

If your message is a Habeas Compliant Message, it's also probably not spam. Habeas is in the business of helping to certify to mail recipients that their clients' email is legitimate.

Another resource to check for advice is the MAPS Basic Mailing List Management Guidelines for Preventing Abuse. The MAPS organization is working to help ISPs block spam, and so obviously they need to know how to recognize it when they see it.



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