On the Legality of Spam Filtering

But my email fully complies with CAN-SPAM, the argument goes. How can ISPs be allowed to block my mail? I comply!

Here's how. Read section 8C of the CAN-SPAM law. It says:

NO EFFECT ON POLICIES OF PROVIDERS OF INTERNET ACCESS SERVICE-- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to have any effect on the lawfulness or unlawfulness, under any other provision of law, of the adoption, implementation, or enforcement by a provider of Internet access service of a policy of declining to transmit, route, relay, handle, or store certain types of electronic mail messages. 

Seems pretty straightforward, no? I know, I know, I'm not a lawyer. But neither are the people at the ISPs building spam filters to block unwanted mail, and they still manage to know what the law says.


  1. Folks need to stop whining. How hard is it to tweak, test, tweak, test, until it works?

  2. It seems there's a problem: treating commercial and non-commercial email in the same way.

    I believe that the SPAM Act does not apply to non-commercial email. I'm also told that ISP's are not required to abide by the SPAM Act.

    There's a guide to the FCC rules at business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business . The actual text of the Act is at www.ftc.gov/os/caselist/0723041/canspam.pdf .

  3. Somewhat correct, but also, basically, has no bearing. ISPs are free to block/filter whatever they want, and not just under CAN-SPAM. The CDA applies as well, and it makes no distinction for type of message sent. I'm also not sure that CAN-SPAM can be reasonably interpreted to mean that you can't filter/block transactional messages.

  4. You seem to be correct. The problem is that any group can shut down any emailer by turning in anonymous spam complaints, and it turns ISPs into censors.

    How is that any different from an authoritarian society. I guess the open Internet was too good to last for long.

  5. "Any Group" can't "shut down" "any emailer" with "anonymous spam complaints." That's just bullshit. You really need to learn a lot more about how spam reporting systems work.


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