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Is my bulk email Spam?
I use bulk email in providing updates to my site's visitors. I'm a bit worried about your anti-spam policy. Would it affect me?

Our Spam Definition

Spam is any form of unsolicited bulk communication used to promote a web site, a product, or an idea. Generally, the recipient does not welcome the spam, nor did they intentionally sign up to receive it. The most common method of distribution for spam is electronic mail, although newsgroup postings, web-based bulletin boards, and various forms of online messaging may also be conduits through which spam is sent and received.

Unlike opt-in mailing/distribution lists, spam does not give an opportunity for the recipient to express his or her disinterest before having already been spammed. Given the size of the Internet, it should be assumed that the vast majority of its users have no interest in the contents of your mailing, and should not be included without prior permission. So-called 'targetted' lists are still considered unsolicited (as each individual is still without choice in the matter prior to receipt of a message), and are covered within our anti-spam policy as well.

The Consequences

Spam is grounds for account cancellation at Dreamhost, without prior warning or refund (even on the first offense). This applies to cases where the account in question is obviously being used for the distribution of unsolicited bulk messaging. Even spamming from another service in order to promote a site hosted with Dreamhost is against our anti-spam policy, and will be dealt with accordingly.

In cases where the sender's intent is unclear, or we are initially unable to determine if a spam complaint is with merit, we will not deactivate the site in question until such time as we are able to verify the complaint.

Determining If A Complaint Is Valid

We reserve the right to determine whether or not a spam complaint is valid. The following guidelines assist us in this goal, and may prove useful in ensuring that your own actions are protected under our terms of service.

If a message is using forged headers, it is automatically considered spam and the originating account will be permanently deactivated. There is no reason to forge headers in sending legitimate correspondence.

If a very large number of complaints are logged from numerous individuals, this is strong evidence that the message fits the spam profile. Legitimate mailings usually do not provoke that sort of reaction from their recipients.

If your bulk mailing advertises tools for sending spam or email addresses used in the practice of spamming, it would seem that you may be using your own products to perform such actions.

If your mailing uses a deceptive subject or tone (ie. 'Hello friend!' in the title) with an apparent intent to deceive people into reading it, it is quite possibly spam.

If you have a history of spamming or other account violations, that would obviously count against you.

How To Prevent Cancellation

The short answer to this is simple: don't spam. No policy can completely prevent spam, but ours at least prevents it from occuring more than once. If you spam, you will lose your account.

The long answer is also pretty clear: make an effort to distinguish yourself from the spamming population. First, if you offer a mailing list to your customers, the only people who should be on that list are those who explicitly request (via a web based form, email, etc) to be added to the list. You should also provide instructions for unsubscribing with every mailing, and honor all requests to be taken off of your list.

If you wish to post a message to a newsgroup of a promotional nature, you should ensure that the group's charter allows for such postings (some do, most don't). It is your responsibility to check with the charter of any newsgroup you post to in order to determine what is acceptable.

If you are careful to ensure that everyone on your distribution list chose to be there, and provide means for those who do not wish to be there to unsubscribe, you should have little to worry about. Bulk email is fine as long as it is an opt-in service.

Why?

Please understand that while our anti-spam stance may seem harsh, it is for the protection of our customers and the Internet community in general. There are many opportunities to market your site effectively without resorting to such activities.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding our anti-spam policy and how it may affect you, feel free to ask via our support form. Our goal is to educate our customers on the effects of spam, and attempt to insulate them from those effects as much as possible.

Last updated: Feb 08, 2001.