Did the White House cross the line in their email marketing efforts to inform people about healthcare reforms?
Recently, the White House sent a string of emails to citizens telling them about the stand the government has taken on healthcare reforms. However, some recipients complained that those mails were ‘unsolicited.’ As a result, doubts were raised about the address gathering techniques employed by White House officials, which critics said, were on par with the ones used by spammers.
Things took a turn for the worse when spokespersons for the Obama Government appealed to the people to send all ‘fishy emails about healthcare reform’ to email@example.com. This account was set up by officials to clarify rumors about reform proposals. The account, however, was deactivated later. Critics felt that the government must have had a different agenda; it collected these email addresses to 'keep track of protestors.'
After acknowledging the problem, the White House opined that ‘third-party groups’ provided the addresses. To set things right, the White House set up a couple of filtering devices. Some people believe the damage may be already done. David Johnson, President of Strategic Vision said that people will be suspicious about messages they receive from the White House, and the techniques officials use.
President of the E-Voter Institute, Karen Jagoda said that the issue is actually a minor one and that people can delete any mail they want to. In fact, receiving junk mails has become a common phenomenon.
It would be rather pointless to conclude that the White House indulged in spamming or violated the CAN SPAM act. The emails sent to citizens may have been unsolicited. But it does not amount to spamming for two reasons. Firstly, people knew the source of the emails. Secondly, the emails contained information about healthcare reforms and not promotional content.
The root cause of the episode seems to be negligence of best practices. It is clear that if a bulk email sender does not adhere to the best practices, they are most likely to be held accountable. And it doesn’t make a difference even if the sender is the seat of the most powerful government in the world, the White House.