Barack Obama Pledges to End Controversial Nazi-Spam ProgramS

The White House is changing its procedures for sending out mass e-mails after hundreds of outraged conservatives received David Axelrod's healthcare reform pitch last week, Politico reports.

We looked into the issue on Friday after, like Fox News' Major Garrett, we got a whole lot of tips from people who say they never signed up for White House e-mails but still got Axelrod's message from the White House. Since the White House privacy policy makes clear that "individuals must affirmatively request" to join its e-mail list, something appears to have gone haywire.

According to Politico, the White House thinks pressure groups were signing people up for White House e-mails without their knowledge:

[W]hite House officials determined that advocacy groups on the right or left could have sent in the names without the person knowing it.

For instance, a group might have sent WhiteHouse.gov a comment from each person who had signed an online petition, and the White House would have captured the e-mail address.

A White House spokesman offered Politico a sort-of-apology for any confusion:

The White House e-mail list is made up of e-mail addresses obtained solely through the White House website. The White House doesn't purchase, upload or merge from any other list. … [A]ll e-mails come from the White House website as we have no interest in emailing anyone who does not want to receive an email. If an individual received the e-mail because someone else or a group signed them up or forwarded the email, we hope they were not too inconvenienced. Further, we suggest that they unsubscribe from the list by clicking the link at the bottom of the e-mail or tell whomever forwarded it to them not to forward such information anymore.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but we'll repeat that privacy policy for emphasis: "[W]e maintain email lists to keep interested, eligible individuals informed about important topics, and individuals must affirmatively request to join them." The White House's explanation seems to be that either a) advocacy groups forwarded e-mails from people who signed petitions, and so the White House added their addresses to its list, or b) advocacy groups filled out comment forms in the names of people who signed petitions, and so the White House added their addresses to the list. In neither case does that constitute an affirmative request to receive e-mails. (Here's a sample comment form at the White House—the terms of participation make no mention of agreeing to receive further e-mails.) It certainly makes sense for the White House to respond to concerned or angry citizens who send e-mails, and it's a good thing to communicate its message. But it's politically stupid to violate your own privacy policy and spam people who didn't ask for it.

One reason it's politically stupid is that we live in a nation of imbeciles who don't understand technology and are desperate for more things to be angry about. Here's just one example of the many irate e-mails we received from wingnuts over this story—the writer acknowledges that she sent an e-mail to Obama, but is outraged that Obama shared her e-mail address with Axelrod:

[S]ince when does anyone email the president and get a "random" email from his senior advisor? ... I still say, okay, I understand I emailed the president, the problem is how did David Axelrod get my email address and why did he send me something I did not ask for? Who gave him my email address? Is he reading and answering the president's email? Did the president give him my email address? WHO in the WH is screwing up and passing email addresses around? I hope we get answers soon.