House spam filter blocks thousands of wolf advocates’ emails

Up to 30,000 emails sent to members of the Minnesota House since August by the advocacy group Howling for Wolves did not go through, the group said Wednesday.

The emails are finally being delivered now, but it took the group's leaders months to confirm what was happening to the emails and make changes to its website to ensure the messages were being delivered.

"We lost a lot of momentum because of this," Howling for Wolves President Maureen Hackett said. The problem was only with the House's email system, not the Senate's, she said.

Howling for Wolves had set up a place on its website where supporters could send emails urging their specific legislators to stop the state's wolf hunting season. Hackett said the group first noticed the problem in August when a representative supportive of the group's efforts confirmed she hadn't received emails from a list of people that had sent messages through the Howling for Wolves web form.

The problem, which the House IT department investigated earlier this month, could be related to Howling for Wolves' host site, DreamHost. According to House IT Director Mike Speiker, the House email system's spam filter blocked nearly 3 million emails from DreamHost between January and April. He said not all those emails came from Howling for Wolves.

"This happens from time to time when groups use third party host sites," he said. "We employ a filter to make sure members aren't getting excessive spam, so sometimes these sites can trigger it with excessive delivery."

Speiker said they've worked with other groups that have had similar problems to change the rate at which emails are sent or to send them in smaller batches so that they don't get caught by the spam filter. He said the filter is necessary.

"If we didn't have a spam filter, then no one would get through," he said. "It's amazing the stuff that still gets through, to be honest."

Speiker said the best way for groups to avoid emails being blocked by a spam filter is to have supporters email members directly or use the form on each member's House website.

But Hackett said her group was not sending an excessive number of emails on behalf of constituents and should never have had them blocked.

"We were not jamming them," she said. "To any individual representative it would have been only 10 or 20 emails in a day at the most. We were sending them specific emails with specific constituents' names in the subject line."

After learning their messages hadn't reached House members for months, Hackett said advocates will hold daily assemblies outside of the House and Senate chambers to make sure their message against Minnesota's wolf hunting season is heard.

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