Probably the most controversial part of my last post was about posting email. I know quite a few otherwise right-thinking people who have nonetheless adopted a “posting email is OK” attitude, so I’ll try to explain my own reasoning for why it’s not OK.

Basically it all comes down, for me, to a simple question: should posting email be an opt-in or an opt-out process? Put another way, should the person who sends email have to grant permission explicitly, or deny it explicitly? It seems like a simple enough question, but there’s a little bit of a trap there for people who believe it’s OK to think opt-out is OK. Specifically, consider this: spammers have exactly the same attitude, the only difference being that they’re thinking about the message envelope rather than its contents. I shouldn’t need to explain to anyone why spam is bad; I could, but that’s a topic best left for another article.

If spammers like opt-out for the message envelope, and you believe opt-out is OK for the message contents but don’t want to be considered morally equivalent to a spammer, you have only one choice: come up with a reason why the contents of a message deserve less protection than the envelope. Good luck. Absent such a reason, people who make a habit of posting email without permission are basing their actions more on lazy self-interest than on principle. Put another way, they really are morally equivalent to spammers.