Email and politics


I occasionally consult for activists using email. Their needs and requirements are a little different from email marketers. Sure, the requirements for email delivery are the same: relevant and engaging mail to people who requested it. But there are complicating issues that most marketers don’t necessarily have to deal with.
Activist groups are attractive targets for forged signups. Think about it, when people get deeply involved in arguments on the internet, they often look for ways to harass the person on the other end of the disagreement. They will often signup the people they’re disagreeing with for mailing lists. When the disagreements are political, the logical target is a group on the other side of the political divide.
People also sign up spamtraps and bad addresses as a way to cause problems or harass the political group itself. Often this results in the activist group getting blocked. This never ends well, as instead of fixing the problem, the group goes yelling about how their voice is being silenced and their politics are being censored!!
No, they’re not being silenced, they’re running an open mailing list and a lot of people are on it who never asked to be on it. They’re complaining and the mail is getting blocked.
With that as background, I noticed one of the major political blogs announced their brand new mailing list today. Based on their announcement it seemed they that they may have talked to someone who knew about managing a mailing list.

Email activism is a key weapon in a modern activist organization’s arsenal, yet [website] has never jumped in. It was less a matter of will, and more a lack of resources and expertise. Managing a big email list is surprisingly complex, and we’ve been too small and overworked to do something we should’ve done a long time ago.

As a matter of professional curiosity, I signed up. What’s their signup like? Are they following best practices?

Sadly. No.
Their signup form asks for a first name, an email address and a zip code. Fill in the information and hit “submit.” The landing page says “Thanks for signing up” but provides none of the data that any delivery expert recommends. They mention nothing about frequency. They mention nothing about what they’re going to do with my email address.
They do send a welcome message almost immediately. It’s a bit bare bones:

Thanks for joining the [website] email action list!
If you would like to tell a friend to join, just point them to the following URL:
Thanks again,
[signoff] Founder, [website]

This should, at a minimum, have information about my signup and the chance to opt-out if there was an error. Comply with CAN SPAM, while not required as they are a political group, is such a minor thing they should be doing so. And, of course, this site is a big enough target, that I think they should be confirming every subscription. That will reduce the complaints from the targets of harassment and prevent people who don’t like them from being able to harm their delivery.

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By laura

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