Political spam

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Acquiring votes by e-mail is a logical extension of campaigning by telephone or mail, and is nothing but marketing for political ends. Whenever the e-mails are unsolicited, they qualify as spam. They can be sent by, on behalf of, or without any knowledge by, the favoured party or candidate.

The threshold for using unsolicited bulk e-mail seems to be lower, the lower the profile, or the chances, of a candidate.

In the Netherlands the first, minor, occurrences of political spam were known during the 2006 parliamentary elections.

  • One incident involved a candidate who used unsolicited bulk e-mail to ask for direct votes in her favour.
The Labour Party candidate, Kirsten Verdel, used a pop group's mailing list in an attempt to get enough votes to get a seat in parliament. The Labour Party is a major party in the country. Votes cast for a party will elect members into parliament according to an ordered list, unless a specific candidate gets enough votes for himself. In the latter case he/she will get a seat directly, even if he/she has more members before him on the list, than the party will have seats. Verdel was low on the list. Using the mailing list without any authorization, she sent out mails, signed 'friends of Kirsten', with a promotional message and a direct request to vote for her. She had access to the list because she was a webmaster for the band. The band asked her to give up her position the next day. She did not get elected.
  • A second incident involved a small party in parliament, which had a political position which was, on one point, very much favoured by the Turkish government. E-mails have been sent to Dutch nationals in the Netherlands who are of Turkish origin, asking to vote for this party, and, in particular, a candidate of Turkish origin on this party's list. In this case there seems to be no involvement of the candidate herself, Fatma Koser Kaya, in the e-mail campaign. The mails were sent from the Turkish Ministry of General Affairs, and signed 'Ali Alaybeyoglu', who is adviser to the Turkish Minister of Religious Affairs and Foreigners of Turkish origin. The adviser has stated that he had no knowledge of the sending of these emails, and the Turkish Minister of State has speculated on abuse. The candidate, Kaya, has obtained a seat in parliament.