What rules must I follow if I operate my own mailing list or send bulk email?

If you operate your own mailing list (or any other bulk or automated mail system), you need to make sure you're following some strict rules so you can defend yourself against any allegations of spamming. We don’t allow mailing lists or bulk mail that doesn’t meet these requirements.

Our strongest recommendation is to use properly configured mailing list software, such as the Mailman system we provide with your account or Dada Mail. If you do that, the software will take care of everything we describe below.

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What rules must I follow if I run my own mailing list or bulk mail software?

If you run your own mailing software, or you “directly subscribe” members to a Mailman list without using the “invite/verify” option, you must follow the rules in the “NO SPAM” section of our Terms of Service. The major points of that can be summarized as:

  1. Each recipient must explicitly ask to be added to an email list from your organization. You may not add recipients as a side-effect of something else they do, or because they gave their email address to a third party who then gave it to you. For example, you may not add people to an ongoing list because they bought something from you, entered a contest, went to school or worked with you, gave you a business card, sent you a sales inquiry, gave their address to the Chamber of Commerce you're a member of, signed a petition, or gave their address to the organizers of a trade show you exhibited at, unless they also separately verify that they want to be added to your mailing list by completing the verification step described below. (Mailman's invite feature meets this requirement. It's okay to "invite" such people to join your list using Mailman if you think they might be interested in joining.)
  2. When a person asks to be added to your list, you must verify the address (sometimes called "confirmed opt-in" or "double opt-in"). You do that by sending an email message to the address and receiving a response, via email or a web page, where the recipient agrees to be on your list. This makes sure that people aren't subscribed without their knowledge by a third party. It also ensures that the address is accurate and doesn't contain "typos". Finally, it provides you with an ironclad defense against fraudulent "spam" allegations.
  3. You must keep permanent, detailed, organized records of the responses from step 2, and you must be able to promptly provide us with these records for all subscribers if we receive a complaint.
  4. Each mailing list message must clearly explain how people can unsubscribe. When people do so, or when messages sent to an address "bounce" with a permanent error, or when a recipient files any type of "spam" report, the address must be promptly and permanently removed from the list.
  5. Your list may not generate more than a 2% undeliverable “bounce” rate in addition to the other rules. If you’re sending many messages to addresses that don’t exist, something is wrong.
  6. Your list may not generate more than a 0.3% complaint rate in addition to the other rules. If recipients are telling us or their ISP that your mail is “spam”, something is wrong.

These rules are what other ISPs and anti-spam organizations consider the minimum standards to ensure you aren't sending “spam”. We can't let you send bulk or automated mail that doesn't meet these requirements. In addition, you should notify us before you start sending bulk mail so we can raise your allowed outgoing mail rate (we'll also ask to spot-check your records to verify you're complying with these rules). If you don't notify us first, your mail may be delayed or returned.

What if I can’t meet these requirements?

If you think these rules seem strict, please read our “Bulk Email” page, which explains in detail why companies like us need to have such rules (unlike companies that send only bulk mail, which can get away with lower standards because it doesn’t matter if some messages from their servers are rejected).

If you want to send bulk mail that can’t meet these requirements, you should use a dedicated bulk mail company instead. One popular option is the TinyLetter service, which is free for up to 5,000 recipients; other services include MailChimp and Constant Contact.