Spam sham


The Canadian government believes it will soon eradicate one of the 21st century’s most annoying plagues: spam emails. In reality, this nebulous plan takes aim at an invisible foe, while some unintentional victims are caught in the crossfire.

On July 1, when Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation comes into effect, organizations will suddenly face stiff penalties if they haven’t gained or confirmed explicit consent from recipients on their mailing list. CASL applies to any “commercial electronic message” that hits any inbox in Canada, whether it’s selling a product or simply encouraging promotion of a product, service or cause.

With vague terms and fines reaching to $1 million for individuals and $10 million for organizations, many have understandably flocked to ensure their compliance. For non-profit or volunteer organizations—most of whom rely heavily on e-newsletters for getting their word out—this means attending workshops, doing additional research and sometimes paying a visit to a lawyer to discover how their messaging sits within CASL.

Spam can certainly get annoying, but such sweeping legislation is ridiculous when every organization must take extra precaution to account for the legislation’s ambiguity, all so that the Canadian government can say they’ve taken an effort to rid your inbox of the occasional overseas money scam. These scammers have always been breaking the law, so the addition of hard-nosed, zero-tolerance legislation isn’t likely to spur a change of heart.

The government is completely out of touch with the spam that annoys Canadians most. Nothing is more indicative of that than the convenient exception that has been added for the most persistent of spammers: political parties themselves.

As non-profits with a genuine interest in their communities prepare to lose subscribers, inboxes and telephones across Canada will continue to ring unchecked, hoping we’ll buy into scam after scam—or worse, a party in the next election.

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