Stupidest Law in Internet History Gets a Contrived Scalp
By Ken Magill
Hey Everybody! One of my predictions for 2015 has come true! And not just sort of true, but word-for-word true.
In my last column for 2014, I predicted that in 2015: “The Canadian anti-spam law will be used against some company that is engaged in admittedly nuisance behavior and held up as an example, when a simple Spamhaus listing with no federal government involvement would have done the job just fine.”
Well, guess what. That just happened.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer last week reportedly issued a Notice of Violation to Quebec-based professional-training company Compu-Finder, which included a penalty of $1.1 million, for allegedly breaking Canada’s anti-spam law.
This case has contrived written all over it.
According to the CRTC, Compu-Finder violated the law four times between July 2, 2014 and Sept. 16. The release didn’t specify the volume of emails involved in the violations. If the number emails involved was impressively large, the CRTC would have published it.
The CRTC also claimed Compu-Finder accounted for 26 percent of all the complaints it received about Compu-Finder’s industry sector.
Whenever a percentage is given in lieu of a hard number, the hard number is undoubtedly unimpressive. In this case, the hard number could have been as low as 13.
As a result, it could be possible that the CRTC sprang into action—if bureaucracies can actually spring—over 13 complaints about unsolicited email from a company that was not reported to be involved in any other criminal activity.
Phew! Canadians can now breathe a sigh of relief that they will no longer get any more of the management-training spam in their inboxes than the zero the vast majority were probably already getting.
For more evidence this case was contrived, check out the following quote from the CRTC’s release:
“Further to an investigation, the Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer finds that Compu-Finder sent commercial electronic messages without the recipient’s consent...”
Note the singular possessive “recipient’s.”
I would be willing to bet a magnum of Tito’s vodka that’s no typo. It also would not be surprising if the “recipient” was the sole complainer and one of the anti-spam loons who helped craft this disaster-waiting-to-happen of a law.
Why would the CRTC go after a company over what in all probability was a minuscule number of complaints by one person? Because the spammers generating the vast majority of the quarter-million-plus complaints the CRTC has received are out of Canadian authorities’ reach.
The CRTC went after Compu-Finder because it was an easy target, not because the enforcement action would accomplish anything meaningful beyond an excuse to send a political message in a press release: “See? We’re doing something.”
The CRTC also understands it’s got a mostly compliant, anti-marketing press that will parrot whatever it publishes.
With all the nefarious activity taking place online, it is difficult to believe the Compu-Finder enforcement action is how Canadians want their federal resources used.
Is a $1.1 million fine necessary when spam filters work as well as they do?
No. It’s overkill. Not that I am defending Compu-Finder.
But think of it this way: Compu-Finder is a business-to-business marketer. As a result, most of its messages no doubt go to corporate email accounts.
Corporate email administrators don’t need to complain to the government to block B-to-B spam. They can block the company by name and be done with it—unless, that is, the administrator is an anti-spam zealot with an axe to grind. [I know, redundant.]
The average corporate email user wouldn’t think to complain to the federal government over B-to-B spam. If they took up the issue at all, it would be with their IT department. And chances are through the efforts of their email administrator, they wouldn’t even see the spam to begin with.
This case reeks of anti-spam zealotry by a CASL cheerleader and meaningless grandstanding by the CRTC.
Another 2015 prediction I made was: “The Canadian anti-spam law will reduce the worldwide flow of spam by a grand total of zero percent.”
We can pretty much declare that one accurate until the end of time.
I also predicted: “The Canadian anti-spam law will be challenged in court as unconstitutional and ruled to be the ridiculous piece of legislative overreach it is.”
Compu-Finder has 30 days to contest the CRTC’s charges or face the fine. It’s probably too much to hope that Compu-Finder helps make that third prediction right. The company reportedly has a pretty spammy reputation.
But kind of like the idea of winning the lottery, contemplating the possibility of Compu-Finder helping gut CASL sure is pleasant.