Why is the Labour Party spamming bloggers?

This entry was posted on
Wednesday, January 21st, 2009
9:59 pm and is filed
under The Political Weblog Movement.

Since mid-January, I have received a number of separate emails from the following address:

Labour Party New Media Team
info [at] email-new.labour.org.uk

Initially, I thought nothing of it; I’d subscribed to email updates from the Labour Party a long time ago, and – given the sub-domain suggesting that this was under their control and that arrangement – I assumed that this was just their new way of saying ‘hello’.

But when I had cause to look closely at these more recent emails, it quickly became apparent that the emails were coming my way not because of any earlier subscription, but because I was a blogger.

Below is a typical plea from an early email of this type:

“… if you could blog about the discussion forum – even a short post with a link – we can make sure as many people know about it as possible…”

There was also another key difference; once I’d decided that I didn’t want to be on this different mailing list with its link-pestering agenda, I looked around for the ‘unsubscribe’ function… and there wasn’t one!

I replied to one of these emails (as one might with an ‘unsubscribe’ message/header)… and got a bounce message!

“… we will not have seen this email you sent us. You will need to re-send your email by clicking on the link below and completing the online form. Go to labour.org.uk/contact…”

But there was no ‘unsubscribe’ option there, either.

Now, the law is very clear on this matter. See the second of two highlights here:

Extract from The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003:

Use of electronic mail for direct marketing purposes

22. – (1) This regulation applies to the transmission of unsolicited communications by means of electronic mail to individual subscribers.

(2) Except in the circumstances referred to in paragraph (3), a person shall neither transmit, nor instigate the transmission of, unsolicited communications for the purposes of direct marketing by means of electronic mail unless the recipient of the electronic mail has previously notified the sender that he consents for the time being to such communications being sent by, or at the instigation of, the sender.

(3) A person may send or instigate the sending of electronic mail for the purposes of direct marketing where –

(a) that person has obtained the contact details of the recipient of that electronic mail in the course of the sale or negotiations for the sale of a product or service to that recipient;

(b) the direct marketing is in respect of that person’s similar products and services only; and

(c) the recipient has been given a simple means of refusing (free of charge except for the costs of the transmission of the refusal) the use of his contact details for the purposes of such direct marketing, at the time that the details were initially collected, and, where he did not initially refuse the use of the details, at the time of each subsequent communication.

(4) A subscriber shall not permit his line to be used in contravention of paragraph (2).

Use of electronic mail for direct marketing purposes where the identity or address of the sender is concealed

23. A person shall neither transmit, nor instigate the transmission of, a communication for the purposes of direct marketing by means of electronic mail –

(a) where the identity of the person on whose behalf the communication has been sent has been disguised or concealed; or

(b) where a valid address to which the recipient of the communication may send a request that such communications cease has not been provided.

Translation #1: If I haven’t asked for it, they can’t send it. If they want to put me on any specific mailing list, I need to agree to it first.

Translation #2: There should be details of an email or web address within any email(s) sent out that allow me to unsubscribe if I decide to un-agree at any stage.

Now, initially I considered their position to be borderline on the first point, but completely in the wrong on the second, but it turns out they were totally out of line on both points.

Pig-ignorant carpet-bagger Derek Draper had CCed our conversation to a bunch of biggish-wigs the other day, so I sent an email to Derek and those same new media/Labour chums – Greg Jackson, Sue Macmillan, Tom Miller and Alex Smith – asking what was going on. It was Sue Macmillan ‘New Media Campaigns Taskforce Leader’ (and warrior princess) for the Labour Party who answered.

She claimed that my name/email details were on the list because they; “made a list of bloggers we thought might be interested.”

1. Derek Draper had earlier made it obvious he had no idea who I was, and made it clear that he didn’t care. Now suddenly I find out that the Labour Party wanted my red hot linky-love all along?! Confusing. Especially so when this Sue person was CCed on the relevant conversation, and didn’t point out at any stage that I was exactly the kind of person they knew about and wanted to care about. It makes no sense to me… unless the Labour Party have been scooping up addresses of leftish bloggers without any real research, care or attention.

2. Tch. And here was me thinking that people from the party of government – i.e. those that introduced this anti-spam law – would understand that they’re not supposed to be emailing people until those people specifically say that they are interested.

Just because I’m interested in politics and I publish my email address on my site, it doesn’t mean that I want to be signed up to every political mailing list going. FFS, I’m into marketing, too; just imagine what my inbox would be like if the law really was that slack on this point.

And a mailing list is what this was; it wasn’t a one-off notice from someone asking if I might be interested in this or that, it was a mailing list that focused on the task of begging for links from weblogs and other forms of web-based networking.

If there was any doubt about that, Sue Macmillan removed it by saying the following;

“We made a list of bloggers we thought might be interested.”

(Psst! Here are the links you were after, you spamming fuckers; Wow, it’s a Shadow WebCabinet!, Wow, it’s your version of David Cameron’s Economic policy! ROFL!. Wow, it’s a discussion forum!, Wow, it’s a Facebook page! Wow, it’s a REMIX of the Shadow WebCabinet! (They must be really excited about their first passable viral mechanism in… well, ever.) Wow, anyone “can embed the widget onto your blog using the code here”! Wow, it’s a new site you’re launching at LabourSpace.com!)

I also asked about the lack of any kind of unsubscribe function – a requirement under law – and I was told by Sue Macmillan (New Media Campaigns Taskforce Leader and warrior princess) that it was a one-off mistake:

“The oversight, I should be clear, was on this email alone.”

When I pointed out that I had at least 4 different emails in my inbox dating back to 13 Jan that all failed to meet this legal requirement, Sue went quiet on me.

It’s been hours now, and I’ve not heard a peep back.

So, here I am blogging about another example of the Labour Party jumping behind the wheel of their shiny new web strategy and driving it into the nearest bloody wall.

Well. Done. You. Tossers.

Don’t fool yourselves into thinking that I’m getting into any web vehicle with you behind the wheel.

(Not that you lot are getting anything out of me with the torture-happy toss-monkey Jack Straw still in the cabinet. Seriously, how hard can it be to shift that skid mark? “What’s that? Torture you say? Well, we’ll get right on with… destroying your life in order to shut you up! Mwahahahahaha!” What a grade-A first-class cu*)

[Psst! I apologise for the tone, readers – but on top of their spamming me, which pisses me off, they’ve fobbed me off with a bullshit claim, which really pisses me off, and then ignored me when I’ve got a valid beef, which royally pisses me off. The whole torture thing gets on my tits a bit, too. Actually, sometimes it gets right up my arse like a broken bottle.]

UPDATE (22 Jan) – Justin McKeating is a victim of this same spamming effort, as is Adam Bienkov of ‘Tory Troll’ who, hilariously, has been addressed in each spam as ‘Tory’ (as opposed to ‘Mr Troll’). Adam also states that, unlike myself, he hasn’t signed up for anything from the Labour Party, ever. In short, the list of known victims is already growing, and Sue Macmillan (Warrior Princess) is stuffed even if she changes her story about the origin(s) of this link-whoring list; someone in her team has clearly been trawling the leftish and/or Tory-sparring neighbourhoods of blogland and doing a not-very-good job of harvesting names and email addresses for the purposes of unsolicited email marketing; spam to you and me. Please speak up via email, comments or bloggage if you’re a victim. Together we can call these spammers to account.

About Tim Ireland

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