ACTA Update VI
Published 09:50, 15 February 12
Yesterday, a disturbing story appeared on the German taz.de site:
EU MPs have received thousands of emails from ACTA opponents. But no more: the Parliamentary authorities have decided that all ACTA emails will go straight into the spam folder.
Clearly, if true, that would be a shocking state of affairs. For four years the public has had no way of expressing its views on ACTA as it was negotiated in secret, with only token releases of general information every now and then. So if it were the case that now, when the treaty is finally out in the open (but not the accompanying documents that help define what exactly it means, be it noted), the public once more were unable to express their views on this important matter, it would be a scandal.
So I contacted the press office of the European Parliament to check out the story. They insist that there is no general block on emails related to ACTA. However, they do make two good points on this issue.
First, that individual MEPs might set up their email clients with rules that junk anything to do with ACTA. It's not clear whether that is happening, but it's obviously a possibility. Again, it would be a tremendous dereliction of duty by MEPs if they were to take this action.
The second point is important: that the European Parliament does have general anti-spam rules that catch mass mailings of similar texts. That means that if you use a pre-existing text about ACTA that you have found on a site, and don't personalise it, it may well get rejected as spam. That's actually quite reasonable: if you can't be bothered at least changing a few words on an email, then it doesn't really represent much of a statement.
So the lesson here is that emails written by you, that are completely personal, carry vastly more weight than ones that you simply send off unchanged. Please bear that in mind when you contact MEPs - and MPs too, who have a similar attitude to generic emails.
I'll be monitoring this situation to see if any other reports of MEPs blocking ACTA emails turn up; but for the moment it seems that the fears that this is happening are unfounded
UpdateThe Pirate Party MEP Amelia Andersdotter has made an important point here. It's crucially important to keep letters polite, even if you feel strongly (as you should about ACTA). MEPs understandably don't like being insulted, and it's counterproductive to take this approach. Sending messages to MEPs can be really powerful: let's not spoil it though a few careless words.