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Keeping Spam Off Your Mailing Lists

Once upon a time, run­ning a mail­ing list involved all man­ner of arcane com­mands. Thanks to Yahoo!Groups and sim­i­lar ser­vices, any­one who can get on the web can run a list now. Online com­mu­ni­ties have sprung up for absolute­ly every inter­est, enabling peo­ple who’ve nev­er heard of old-fash­ioned Usenet to exchange infor­ma­tion with thou­sands of oth­ers across the world. 

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, spam­mers have dis­cov­ered that they can often get spam through to Yahoo!Groups lists, sim­ply because most of the list own­ers aren’t very expe­ri­enced in list management. 

I own or mod­er­ate a fair num­ber of lists host­ed by Yahoo!Groups. I can proud­ly say that spam does­n’t get through to any of them, and has­n’t since I took them over (if I did­n’t cre­ate them in the first place). 

It isn’t actu­al­ly very dif­fi­cult to accom­plish the same for your lists, but you do need to think ahead a bit. 

First, you con­trol who gets on your list. Yahoo! has made it dif­fi­cult for auto­mat­ic soft­ware to join lists, as they did at one time. Still, there are spam­mers who do noth­ing but go through lists of groups and join them. You don’t want them on your list. 

Set up a mes­sage that is auto­mat­i­cal­ly sent to every per­son who requests mem­ber­ship. That list should explain a state­ment of the pur­pose of your list and any list guide­lines you have. As the recip­i­ent to reply to it with an intro­duc­tion explain­ing why they want to join your list, and a state­ment acknowl­edg­ing their receipt of and inten­tion to fol­low your list guidelines. 

That intro­duc­tion will take a sin­cere per­son just a few min­utes. Spam­mers will nev­er respond. It isn’t worth their time. 

There are, unfor­tu­nate­ly, a few peo­ple who will go through the intro­duc­tion process, then start send­ing adver­tise­ments to your list. Your sec­ond safe­guard is to place all new list mem­bers on mod­er­at­ed sta­tus for some peri­od of time that you choose. I’ve used any­thing from a week to a month, depend­ing on the list. I do not tell the new mem­bers that they will be mod­er­at­ed at first, as I don’t want them to pre­tend to make nice ’til their tri­al peri­od is over. 

If some­one does send adver­tise­ments to your list, don’t just kick them off the list. Ban them. Yes, they could come back using anoth­er email address, but if you’re pay­ing atten­tion you’ll like­ly catch them out with step one. 

Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished August 2004
Pho­to by Brett Jor­dan on Unsplash

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