Spam, spam, blogs and spam…

Now here’s a thing I didn’t pick up at the time. One big fat blog row about what is and what is not spam. Michele takes a much narrower view of spam than I would. He was particularly annoyed when the Green Party sent him an invitation to take part in a competition they were running. Michele, it seems, doesn’t like politics nor (now at least) the Green Party. He was sufficiently annoyed in fact that he made a complaint to the Data Commissioner, who can levy fines of up to €250,000. Scary.Now I hate spam as much as the next blogger. Particularly comment spam, which borders on criminal damage at its most extreme. I can also see why people would get annoyed with the kind of ‘cold calling’ offering you a business proposition you don’t want. Adrian argues that politics is exempt from Irish law; there being no commerical interest. But it would be good to get some definitive clarity on this.

For me, technology has already substantially dealt with the problem of spam. These days I use gmail and anything remotely like that just goes straight into the spam box. Then I don’t ever have to see anything from them again. Ever.

I do get unsolicited emails, from readers, new bloggers, political parties and individual members of the public. Most of them take a punt based on what they know of Slugger and the work we do. More than that, those emails and Facebook messages can help provide the lifeblood of a good blog. I’d hate them to stop just because someone had no ‘existing business relationship’ with me or any of my colleagues.

In fact one of the keys to Twitter’s success is that it codifies exactly this kind of unsolicited advance to strangers (albeit one to one, as opposed to 1 to 22). You follow someone you like and if they like you, they follow you back. If not, they don’t. Or they can even block you if they really don’t want to know you.

Hell, the blogosphere itself is full of unsolicited ‘pinging’ of each others’ sites. You don’t ask for it, but the connective tissue that it develops over time is what has lifted the blog phenomenon above the stand alone technologies (FrontPage for example) that came before it.

Blogs and bloggers are autonomous creatures. Michele’s entitled to call it as he sees it. And I guess the lesson Damian and the Greens have learned is to make sure the blogger you approach is actually interested in you (the feeling, as in this case, may not be as mutual as you think/hope).

But I confess that it is slightly disturbing to see bloggers resort so quickly to law after having had the advantage of riding (and prospering from) the unregulated waves of the Internet for so long.

Or perhaps it is just that those free and unregulated days are already well and truly over…

  • Mark McGregor

    No offence Mick. Who really cares. This is bloggers thinking anyone really gets a shit. [some text removed – Mods]

    If he gets any money out of this I’ll start a campaign to pay back those he is seeking to rob via online whinge.

  • Dave

    I agree with Mark. He has commercial ads on his Blog from Google that generate revenue. Ergo, he is running a business, and he is not classified as an individual under the act. The onus is on him to notify the marketer that he does not wish to receive any more emails from them. That is all he had to do. [Some text removed – mods]

    Marketers may send you electronic mail for direct marketing purposes where you have not notified them not to do so.

  • Dave

    I was looking for the applicable definition of ‘subscriber’ on the Data Protection Commissioner’s website in case it meant someone who subscribed to a mailing list rather than meaning someone who subscribed to the service that is being used to distribute the ‘spam’ e.g. telephone, ISP, etc.

    According to the document below, it means the communications service and not what Internet users might typically use it to mean (i.e. someone who has subscribed an email marketing list).

    In that case, I would claim that the irascible party above is not classed as a non-individual under the act, and so the contents of the link (post above) apply to him. No doubt he recognises that he is generating revenue from his enterprise and has declared that income to the Revenue Commissioners.

    http://www.dataprotection.ie/documents/guidance/PositionPaperDM.doc

  • Dave

    Err, typo: “I would claim that the irascible party above is not classed as a non-individual under the act.”

    Of course, with large fines for getting it wrong, I wouldn’t rely on advice from someone whose knowledge of the subject is limited to browsing the Data Protection Commissioner’s website. 😉