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Derailing unwanted messages

For 18 months, I have e-mailed the White House. If they don't like what you are saying, can they block you from sending e-mail to the White House?

Just about everybody in business (and politics is business, too) eventually encounters some customer, constituent and/or critic whose e-mails become bothersome and, just as you suspect, there are ways of cutting off unwelcome messages.

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I lack the kind of security clearances that would let me know whether the government can stop citizens from sending e-mail to the White House, but it's possible to route all incoming messages from a pesky voter directly into the trash bin.

I could create what is called a rule to order software like Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express to deep-six every incoming message from anybody with a specific name. I could even order the software to reject all incoming notes from your Internet service provider.

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The White House could set up Outlook to monitor all incoming mail and send to the trashcan everything sent from addresses ending in JohnKerry.org. The rules can be drafted so that keywords such as "disagree with" in the message text would be enough to deep-six a message.

Here's how to censor stuff: In Outlook, click on Tools and then select Rules and Alerts. Outlook Express uses a Message Rules choice instead. Either way you will find a set of wizards that will let you create a wide variety of commands that select e-mail by sender name, keywords, etc., and take action.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. James Coates can be contacted via e-mail at jcoates@ tribune.com.


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