Kavi Mailing List Manager Help

Chapter 22. Mailing List Policy and Usage Statements


A mailing list's Policy and Usage Statement describes the general purpose of the mailing list and provides information that mailing list users and moderators need to know in order to use the mailing list effectively. A Policy and Usage Statement is less formal than the organization's Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy and, is usually written by list administrators rather than legal experts. It can be short and sweet or thorough as desired, but it should answer certain key questions.

Admins enter a Policy and Usage Statement in plain text or HTML format when adding or editing a mailing list. This statement is displayed on the Mailing List Home page.


Although Policy and Usage Statements tend to be informal, there can be legal issues involved, particularly for more private, restrictive lists where posters are more likely to expose proprietary information protected by intellectual property rights. For an informal example, see Sample Policy and Usage Statement.

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Your Subscriber Audience

Mailing lists often serve a diverse set of subscribers—who may live anywhere in the world—and range from inexperienced newbies to those who remember what the world was like before there were personal computers or an Internet. The mailing list's Policy and Usage Statement should address the needs of this diverse group, with particular attention to inexperienced and less technical users. These users may need guidance on proper netiquette almost as much as they need instructions on how to subscribe and unsubscribe.

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Key Questions to Answer

However brief the Policy and Usage Statement, it should provide answers to these key questions or refer the user to an area of the site where answers are available.

What is the topic or purpose of this list?

Provide a description of the organization's purpose and goals for this mailing list, paying special attention to differentiating this list from similar lists available through the organization. This is your opportunity to clarify the topic—what it is and what it isn't—to help keep postings on topic.

Who can subscribe?

Can the public subscribe directly via email or a form on a public page, or not at all? Can logged-in members subscribe themselves, or is this a private list?

Who can post?

Is this list open to public posting, to subscribers only or to moderators only?

Are posts from the public posted directly, sent for moderation or rejected outright? Are subscribers allowed to post directly? If not, what happens to their posts (e.g., are they moderated or rejected). Are moderator posts moderated?

Here are some samples you might use or adapt. They are based on the configuration of the underlying list type's 'Who can post to the list?' option (i.e., the -MOU argument settings). If you aren't sure how your list is configured, click the View link.


Messages are accepted from anyone and posted directly to the list.


Messages are accepted from anyone, subject to moderator approval.


Messages are accepted from anyone, but public posts are moderated. Subscriber posts are sent directly to the list.


Subscribers can post directly to the list, but public posts are rejected.


Only moderators can post, and all posts are moderated. Posts submitted by other users will be rejected.

If your list applies different rules to posts from different levels of senders, be sure to advise list users that the mailing list determines their posting permissions based on where it finds their email address— specifically, whether they are on any subscription list under the address from which they are sending (i.e., the email address is on the Digest Subscriber, Regular Subscriber, Poster List or Moderator List). If they are sending from an address that isn't on any of these lists, the mailing list will classify them as a public sender and the rules that apply to posts submitted by the general public will be applied to their message. Many list users are taken by surprise when they send a message from an unsubscribed address and it is rejected or sent for moderation. To a mailing list, you are your email address, and the level of posting privileges assigned to the address is determined by which list the address is on.

How do I post?

What is the posting process? How does the message need to be structured (e.g., no blank subject lines, etc.)? What formats are allowed (e.g., plain-text only, HTML, RTF, other MIME type attachments allowed?)? If the list is moderated, how do I contact the moderator? What will get my posts rejected (e.g., posting from an email address other than the one under which I'm subscribed, etc.)?

What is proper netiquette for this list?

What do I need to know in order to be a good contributor to this mailing list (e.g., lurking)? What are the most common faux pas (i.e., social blunders) and how do I avoid them (e.g., what is the list's definition of spam, abusive language, etc.)?


The Policy and Usage Statement helps shape the general tone of the mailing list. It provides an opportunity to define appropriate content and educate inexperienced posters, and to define inappropriate behavior and the consequences that could be imposed on violators. Much of the netiquette and policy information repurposed here and elsewhere throughout the World Wide Web is derived from the wisdom encoded in Netiquette for Site Admins written for Usenet back in 1995 by Mitchell Golden et al. An extract of this is quoted in the Foldoc Free On-Line Dictionary of Computing definition of netiquette.

What will get me removed from this list?

Users can be removed by either automated or manual (moderated) processes.

Bounced email

Kavi Mailing List Manager automatically unsubscribes users whose email bounces repeatedly. Instruct the user to resubscribe.

List policy infractions

Which infractions of list policies are considered serious enough to get a user banned from this list? What happens to users who violate these policies?

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Fools, Boors and Spammers Oh My!

There are three general categories of netiquette transgressors: fools, boors and spammers. Fools include those who are unaware of proper netiquette and require education, as well as those who should know better but need periodic reminders. Most of us fall into this category at times, so list admins tend to respond to foolishness proactively with education and retroactively with reminders.

Boors include those who deliberately and routinely transgress the boundaries of appropriate behavior as well as those who react inappropriately on occasion. Being human, we all have moments when we do not exhibit our best behavior and hope that others will overlook our lapse and see that we are truly well-intentioned. We also realize that what may appear to be boorish behavior on the part of another may simply be a difference in communication style, world view, etc. So some tolerance for perceived boorishness is wise as an unstated policy. On the other hand, if your mailing list intends to enforce consequences for bad behavior, it is necessary to describe the kinds of infractions that will not be tolerated and explicitly state the consequences for crossing this line. This will vary from list to list. Public lists tend to be more tolerant of profanity and advertisements than private lists. Even with consequences explicitly stated, Admins can and should use their discretion regarding enforcement, but having an explicit description of infractions and consequences helps admins explain their decisions when challenged by users whose posts are rejected or who have been unsubscribed and banned from resubscribing.

Spammers frequently target mailing lists as method of distributing unsolicited bulk advertisements, and most mailing lists employ a zero-tolerance policy for spammers: immediately and permanently unsubscribing any user who attempts to post spam. Spam is such an enormous problem that there are global organizations dedicated to identifying spammers and neutralizing them by maintaining lists of the IP addresses of known spammers. Kavi uses lists maintained by Spamhaus, the oldest and best-known of these organizations. The originating IPs of all incoming email are checked and if this IP matches an IP on the list of known spammers (i.e., blocklist), the email is automatically blocked (i.e., deleted). But spammers employ many devices to bypass spam filters and, like viruses and other malware, spam is continually evolving, so the only way to completely block spam from your list is to have all posts moderated.

For more information on spam, including how to manage your list and use list text to guard against any accusation of spamming, see What You Need to Know about Spam.

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