Suspended Google account - need to reinstate
April 3, 2015 3:51 PM   Subscribe

My new google account was suspended. I believe they think I'm a spammer. But I am working for a small non-profit. Our email contact list is legitimate. My initial request for account reinstatement was denied. Need help getting reinstated. Details below:

I volunteer for a small non-profit. I set up a new google account for the organization. (Formerly all the leaders were communicating via their personal email accounts.)

Google suspended our account after I sent a bulk email to our mailing list of 400 addressees. I suspect they identified me as a spammer. We were not asking for money, it was merely a meeting notice.

I filled out Google's form to request reinstatement.

The Google Accounts Team denied my request, as follows:
"... After review, your account is not eligible to be reinstated due to a violation of our Terms of Service. ... We recommend viewing the our Google Terms of Service and product-specific policies to better understand what specific actions may have caused the violation. ... If you have reviewed our policies and still believe your account has not violated them, please reply with any additional information that may be useful to process this request."

I sent a reply to the sender of the email: I explained who I represent, and why I am not a marketer or spammer. I asserted that all of our email contacts had requested contact from us.

* Is the best place to request reinstatement?
* How long does it take to get a reply?
* How do I convince them that my email list is legitimate - people who requested contact.

I would really like to have this account back. What a wake-up call. Google has our documents and email archive, and I can't get to it. (Hey dummy, back up your files!)

I plan to move our mass email operation to a free Mailchimp account. But first my organization needs to establish a postal mailing address. Mailchimp requires a postal address, as a measure against spam.
posted by valannc to Technology (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You could look into using a UPS store address or something.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 4:06 PM on April 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Shifting to gmail for business/gmail for your domain would likely make them leave you alone.
posted by emptythought at 4:11 PM on April 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Google suspended our account after I sent a bulk email to our mailing list of 400 addressees.

Well, this IS spam according to the TOS (and also possibly the law, depending on your jurisdiction) and I doubt you are likely to be able to get Google to lift the ban. You absolutely need to be using something like MailChimp that allows people to unsubscribe.

I plan to move our mass email operation to a free Mailchimp account. But first my organization needs to establish a postal mailing address.

Your organisation has an address. It's a non-profit; it incorporated with one. Or use a temporary one. Or something.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:31 PM on April 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah just to be clear -- the address thing is federal law, not a Mailchimp rule. As is all mailing list emails having a "clear and conspicuous" unsubscribe option. There are some exemptions for nonprofits but in general nonprofits are still covered under CAN-SPAM -- even on an opt-in mailing list like you were using.

Which is to say that you may be able to get Google to overturn it, but you need to understand that you very definitely did something wrong, you very definitely violated their TOS, and you very possibly violated federal law. Obviously you did it by accident and without malice, and obviously this is not the most important law in the world, but it still might be a good idea to, in your contact with Google, apologize and explain how you're going to comply in the future.

And seconding emptythought's suggestion to get gmail for your domain -- it's free for registered nonprofits and gives you a lot more control.
posted by brainmouse at 4:36 PM on April 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks to all for these quick responses.

Clarification: We are not a registered non-profit. We are a grass-roots coalition of churches, community groups, and individuals working on the problem of homelessness. We have no funding -- just people who meet once a month, try to make a dent in the problem, and communicate to a larger group. We are effective in our sphere. Official non-profit status may never happen.

Our mailing list is growing. I know we need an "opt out" function. MailChimp will be good. I'm going to try to get a postal address. Maybe one of the churches will let us use their address.

I will look into the google domain thing.
posted by valannc at 4:54 PM on April 3, 2015

Best answer: Mailchimp advertises on podcasts and presumably other small-media outlets, and IIRC have discount codes from things they've sponsored. Search around for such a discount code before signing up.

Also, my employer uses a google domain, and we don't pay a dime and have around 40 people in the company with email. It's a great thing, and while I would love some more powerful admin tools, I can't beat the price.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:59 PM on April 3, 2015

Best answer: In my experience Google limits you to 500 emails per day. That's plenty for normal use. If you sent 400 meeting notices (using BCC one hopes), you might have sent another 100+ other emails that day which would flag you. The normal suspension is just for 24 hours. But, if some of your addressees didn't actually opt in and marked the message as spam, they might bust you for good. If so, you can open a new account, but a Mailchimp account would be better. Still, be sure that you're not just adding in addresses you've scraped somewhere and that everybody on your list wants to be on it.

Up to 2000 addresses, Mailchimp is free as long as you don't want bells and whistles like scheduling emails.
posted by beagle at 5:00 PM on April 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Mefites, you are the best!

No emails were scraped. Ha ha. We collect emails on a paper sheet at our meetings.

I'm going to abandon the google account. It's clear I was using it wrong. Not worth my time to bother the good folks at Google. I believe any important content can be salvaged from other places.

So... any advice on this plan....?

What my organization currently has:
* Organization leaders communicate with their personal email accounts.
* Growing email list, now under my control. (Bwwah ha haa!)
* Old web site. It's not a bad web site, but it's managed by one busy person. Updates are always late and no one else has access to the site.

What we need:
* Bulk email and list management. I will use MailChimp.
* Get a new google account to use as our contact address. No bulk gmails. I don't think there's a way to stop the churn of personal email account usage among the leaders. But I'm going to make sure all mass communication goes through our new gmail address that belongs to the organization.
* Public archive for a few documents.
* A place to post updates -- meeting notes, new resources, schedule updates.

I'm thinking a free blog would be good. More than one person can update it. It's easy maintain. Any suggestions for blog platform? I might like to use (Selfishly, I want to learn about WordPress for career reasons.) Or maybe Blogger, to keep it in the Google-verse.
posted by valannc at 5:49 PM on April 3, 2015

Best answer: I'd get a domain name and an email at that domain, instead of an address.

Squarespace or WordPress would be good for the website. I'd go with though.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:55 PM on April 3, 2015

you are going to continue to run into problems, especially if your mailing list continues to grow.

_you_ know that you didn't scrape the mailing list, but your ISP does not. And if they let people like you send emails based on your word that they are legitimate, they eventually will get caught in a spam trap and will have _their_ deliverabilty compromised. Your best bet is to sign up with somebody like mailchimp or Constant Contact. I used to work for one of these mail providers, and they'd generally let you upload your hand-assembled email list & send a mailing, but they'd throttle it, until they were convinced they could trust you. If a number of your email addresses turn out to be bogus (and that can include transcription errors), they'll flag you as a spammer, though.

Just having your own domain doesn't necessarily solve the problem, because your ISP will ultimately be held responsible for your mailing behavior, and they will probably restrict you as a result.
posted by mr vino at 6:08 PM on April 3, 2015

Everyone's already answered your questions, but just wanted to let you know that if you have fewer than 2k subscribers and send less than 12k emails per month, MailChimp is free!
posted by radioamy at 6:24 PM on April 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't know how well Google does with it, but from what I've seen sometimes of other services, if you really want that account back, you might try contacting them with just an abject apology, you feel awful that you didn't understand the terms, it's a small organization, now that you understand you're setting up a Mailchimp account and intend to use the address only for non-mass communication, etc--that even just lack of access to your mail archives is a significant hardship to the organization and you hate to burden them so because you didn't understand the terms of use. Small charitable groups seem to have the best shot at second chances for this sort of thing. (I never did get my old church to start using Mailchimp, sigh, but then, their mailing list is now down to about a dozen people.)

But I think you guys would be better off with an actual domain name, too, in the long run, so it probably depends whether there's important information in those archives. One of the things you can do with a domain is forwarding so that, like, goes to whoever handles those right now, goes to whoever manages the websites, stuff like that, then use those as the publicly-posted contact things in various places. You won't have an archive of all messages, but if someone steps down you can change the forwarding to their replacement easily. Also allows those people to easily filter incoming stuff related to the organization.
posted by Sequence at 5:24 AM on April 4, 2015

Also, if people didn't remember signing up for your list or wanted to be removed and didn't find the unsubscribe link, they may have marked your email as spam. That's what I do...
posted by congen at 7:46 AM on April 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I agree with everyone who suggests that you get a domain name. A .org domain can be had for $15 or less, and you don't need to be a registered non-profit to get one.

On top of that, you can use various mail services to manage mass mailing that are not hosted by any website or regular mail server that you may own. If you do that, it's important that you set an SPF (Sender Policy framework) record in your domain configuration. This helps prevent spammers from spoofing your address, and at the same time, prevents your external mailing list server from being flagged as a spoofer. It's been a while since I've done it, so I can't provide much detail beyond that, but I remember it being relatively easy.
posted by circleofconfusion at 1:36 PM on April 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

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