I am so old I remember both doing this and recommending it in the Ordovician era of the web- putting my email address at the bottom of every web page.

Ha ha, fool. But there was no harvesting and selling of emails for purposes of sending unwanted marketing spam. Once the internet altered to become the advernet, this all changed.

Email spam is now a FOL. Gmail saves me a lot of even seeing the river of sludge that is down in the foul underbelly of the internet. I almost never look at my spam folder, but sometimes I do just to get a sniff of the sewer (and mine is relatively clean)

SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM

I also get a regular stream of offers to write guest posts, often for pet web sites, but a lot of ed-tech products; mostly I delete and move on, sometimes I am compelled to fulfill the offer that is right on my home page, to mock them.

Largely it’s not worth the time. Delete and move on, delete and move on, delete and …

And that’s what I did with this one spamvertising HostGator web hosting that came on May 29.

That’s right, the oldest internet profession is email spam marketing.

I have never used HostGator and have no relationship with them. It is clearly unsolicited email, and you can tell that it is a spam effort as the sending address is a Gmail account, and my email is one of 12 in the senders list (software for doing this sends in small batches to not look like spam) (you can’t fool me).

But when a second exact copy came a day later, my fur hackles went up a bit.

Smells like rotten spam

Slightly different. This one sent just to me. Same thing, comes from what purports to be a personal Gmail account offering services from Hostgator.

What to do? Become irate in twitter.

Okay I inflated by one. They did respond quickly and from multiple support accounts. Thus I emailed them the the two messages like:

This is the second Hostgator spam message I received in reference to https://twitter.com/HGSupport/status/869608053359992832

This is unsolicited email and a clear violation of the CAN-SPAM act. This contains links to your site.

The first response clearly shows they did not get my message:

I hope this message finds you well. My name is Adrienne, and I am part of the Customer Service Management Team here at HostGator. We work with every department within the company to ensure customer satisfaction. We received your email and wanted to follow up with you.

First and foremost, we would like to offer our most sincere apologies for the frustration that this matter has caused you. We will certainly do everything in our power to have you removed from our mailing list. What email address would you like us to have removed?

Yes, my fur is really standing up

This is bullshit. I was not contacted from a mailing list; the emails were sent from gmail accounts not associated with HostGator, and sent to my email address w/o permission or any relationship with HostGator.

Maybe have your lawyers refer to https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business and come back with a better explanation why HostGator is using spam advertising.

Ahh, now they get it:

Thank you for taking the time to follow up with us. We understand that your time is valuable, and as such, appreciate you taking the time to reach out to us. Please accept my apologies for misunderstanding your request. After a review of the information youâ??ve sent in your previous email, we will continue to investigate the source of this email and why it was sent. Again, I offer my sincerest apologies for the trouble.

On twitter, this is the “explanation”

Who are “affiliates” Are they people at home sending spam email ads vie their personal gmail accounts? Are Maggie Logan and Alex Smith real?

Then look what came in this morning…

A web hosting ad for a different company, iPage, from a personal gmail account, bearing the same email spam victims as the first message from Hostgator

SPAM is multiplying like sex happy roaches

I have never been a customer nor have any affiliation with iPage. Now we have a relationship, I call them out as spammers.

I won’t take this fertilizer at all.

Why am I getting unsolicited email spam from multiple web hosting companies?

Because they are not independent. The answer is one google search away Who Owns iPage. From Wikipedia:

iPage was initially founded in 1998 as a full web service provider, but the company completely re-launched operations as a web hosting provider in 2009. It’s currently run by Endurance International Group, which is also the owner of other web hosting companies such as BlueHost and HostGator.

Endurance International Group, WTF is that, some kind of ultrasports trainers? Nope.

Nice. They offer “Everything small businesses need to fuel their online presence and reach customers everywhere” including spam email advertising campaigns.

Let’s get them into the fun circle.

Always blaming “the affiliates”. Who the fuck are affiliates? They will try and shift the blame to some third party, but the fact is the affiliates are email spam marketing campaigns with direct links to the companies listed as Endurance International group “brands” (I anticipate the Blue Host offers next).

Let me repeat- the same exact type of spam advertising was emailed to the list of victims for two different Endurance “brand” companies- I hold the Endurance International group 100% accountable for this practice.

An illegal practice.

For the Endurnce group, let’s do a review of the FTC CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business:

Despite its name, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t apply just to bulk email. It covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email that promotes content on commercial websites. The law makes no exception for business-to-business email. That means all email – for example, a message to former customers announcing a new product line – must comply with the law.

They violate rule 1:

Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.

and rule 5:

Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.

and most key, Endurance International Group who is only blaming “affiliates”

Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.

Once more in case you did not see that The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law.

I have three violations sitting in my inbox and ready to file with the FTC.

Each separate email in violation of the law is subject to penalties of up to $40,654, and more than one person may be held responsible for violations. For example, both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that originated the message may be legally responsible. Email that makes misleading claims about products or services also may be subject to laws outlawing deceptive advertising, like Section 5 of the FTC Act. The CAN-SPAM Act has certain aggravated violations that may give rise to additional fines.

And let me be very clear- you picked the wrong person to piss off as you piss all over the internet I once loved

Maybe you should focus more on providing good company service like my friends at Reclaim Hosting / Rockaway Hosting. They have a soul, a conscious and do not have to do spam marketing. They also pick up a lot of your frustrated customers.

It’s your move, Endurance International Group and do not make it a lame one.

UPDATE May 31, 2017 11:30PM PT

Despite tweets saying they were investigating, the HostGator spam continues:

The SPAM that keeps SPAMMING

UPDATE June 2, 2017 1:39AM PT

I was told by Endurance Whatever that the problem was taken care of:

as well as given an explanation from Jonathan at HostGator:

First, I feel it would be beneficial to address your concerns on what an “affiliate” means to a hosting company. Here at HostGator, as well as many other non-Endurance owned hosting brands ( https://www.godaddy.com/affiliates/affiliate-program.aspx), we offer an affiliate program where individuals can sign up, then refer customers to HostGator to earn referral payments. More information on this program can be found here : https://www.hostgator.com/affiliates

Our affiliate team does take time to evaluate applicants to this program to help ensure that only quality individuals get accepted, but regrettably from time to time we have bad apples that participate in unacceptable behavior such as spamming. It is strictly against our affiliate terms of service (https://www.hostgator.com/tos/affiliate-tos) for any affiliate to spam, as this of course not only violates the CAN-SPAM act, but as you are aware, sullies the reputation of the brand they are attempting to “promote.” I use this word in quotes as these individuals are clearly combing the internet for e-mail addresses, and are looking to take advantage of HostGator in the interest of earning a quick buck, which certainly does not promote HostGator’s reputation.

We take these offenses very seriously and will immediately terminate any affiliate found to be violating the agreement linked above. So far, we have terminated the affiliates you originally reported…

In summary, the messages you received were in no way approved by HostGator or it’s parent company and are a direct violation of our affiliate/referral program, so we appreciate you sending these examples along.

So HostGator and parent company just place blame on rogue affiliates, whom receive some kind of compensation for referrals.

I responded with my opinion that the CAN-SPAM act made it clear that HostGator was responsible for spam email advertising their services even if it was sent by these so called “affiliates” — again quoting from the FTC:

Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.

However, Jonathan still tows this line of not being responsible:

After review of this message, we have found that this was actually the same affiliate from the original report who has since been terminated from the program. In regards to your concern on oversight, this section of the CAN-SPAM act would not apply as we do not offer the affiliate program in order to handle our e-mail marketing on our behalf. Our e-mail marking is not handled by affiliates, and as outlined in our terms of service, our affiliates are not allowed to send unsolicited e-mail. The affiliates are empowered to use banners or ads for their websites and are never given instruction to send unsolicited messages.

While we agree that it would be ideal to have such a high level of oversight, I’m sure you can understand that we cannot realistically review every e-mail an affiliate sends as we cannot prevent an individual from creating an e-mail address with Gmail and sending messages without requesting our approval. What we can do is continue to improve the vetting of our affiliates, and act on any reports of abuse or misrepresentation of our program or brand.

Should I feel assured this is over?

F**** no. I got another spam email tonight, following Jonathan’s email:

Jonathan at HostGator said they took care of this rogue affiliate. Not.

One more tweet across the bow.

At this point, with 4 spam email marketing messages for HostGator, it’s time to file my complaint.

Don’t **** with the dog.

Update June 12, 2017

Now thanks to the email marketing spam incentivized by Endurance International, I am blessed to get spam email for BlueHost

Does Endurance have the endurance to keep spamming me? Will they continue to duck their role? to defer blame?


Featured Image: I did a google images search (set for openly licensed images) on “world’s oldest profession” and got much less racy / relevant images, but as this one shows, it’s not what you think (it’s used as image on the Wikipedia article on Agriculture which lends itself to fertilizer and the topic of this post). It is a Maler der Grabkammer des Sennudem 001.jpg Wikimedia Commons image placed into the public domain by The Yorck Project.

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

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