Don’t Get Caught - Canada Anti-Spam Legislation and LinkedIn

This post was first published on May 11 2014 and I updated it today, January 20 2015

On July 1, 2014 Canada’s Anti - Spam Legislation (CASL) went into effect and brought clarity about the definition of SPAM to Canadians . The considerable fines give it some teeth while some of the interpretations will probably keep a number of legal professionals busy for a while.

I have no legal training! The following is my opinion based on the resources available to me today

CASL brought the current laws closer to US standards and define what constitutes SPAM

One of the biggest changes is the inclusion of all electronic messages and not only email. It introduced the term “commercial electronic message’ CEM

CASL applies to a commercial electronic message (CEM) sent by any medium.

They don’t look at the sender, they look at the message, and it is technology neutral,” Ms. Babe of Miller Thomson says. “If you use social media to merely post an item, fine. If you use your LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter account to send an e-mail to another person, which is commercial in nature, then it is a CEM under CASL.

~ The Globe & Mail

In my words this means that any message that sent with the intent to sell something (including those by nonprofits and charities) fall under the new law.

As of July 1st all Social Media Marketing messages will have to conform to CASL even if they originate outside of Canada

CASL applies to most forms of electronic messaging, including email, SMS text messages, and certain forms of messages sent via social networking. Voice and fax messages are excluded, as they are covered by the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules. The law applies broadly to any CEM that is sent from or accessed by a computer system located in Canada.

~NNovation LLP

The second term we have to look at is “consent”

“CASL creates a permission-based regime, meaning that, subject to specific exclusions, consent is required before sending a CEM. Consent can either be express or implied.

In order to obtain express consent the sender must:

  • clearly describe the purpose(s) for requesting consent;
  • provide the name of the person seeking consent, and identify on whose behalf consent is sought, if different;
  • provide contact information for either of those persons (mailing address and either a telephone number, email address of web address); and,
  • indicate that the recipient can unsubscribe.

The CRTC has stated that, in its opinion, a pre-checked box cannot be used to obtain express consent.”

CASL provides that consent may be implied in any of the following four circumstances:

  • the sender and recipient have an existing business relationship (e.g., the recipient has made a purchase within the past two years, or an inquiry within the past two months);
  • the sender and recipient have an existing non-business relationship;
  • the recipient has conspicuously published their electronic address(e.g., on a website), has not expressly stated that they do not wish to receive unsolicited messages, and the message is related to the recipient’s professional capacity; or,
  • the recipient has disclosed their electronic address directly to the sender, has not expressly stated that they do not wish to receive unsolicited messages, and the message is related to the recipient’s business or official capacity.
    ~NNovation LLP

There is a lot of confusion about this right now and we will see how this can and will be enforced.

In my next CASL post I will go deeper into the impact of the law on email messages and your email list.

But for now let’s explore how CASL will effect the way we use LinkedIn and LinkedIn messages in particular.

  1. It is clear to me that LinkedIn messages fall under CASL in the same way as emails do
  2. It is my opinion that regular messages sent between 1st level connections can be seen as at least having “implied consent” because
    1. You have to agree to be connected to someone
    2. There is a clear process of severing a connection to someone
  3. InMail (LinkedIn’s internal messaging system) is a different story
    1. Agreeing to be connected on LinkedIn does not mean permission to send sales letters
    2. Members can opt out of receiving InMail but can not opt out of receiving messages from an individual

I hope that LinkedIn Canada will bring clarity in this matter soon. There is a period of two years where at least messages to your connections could be considered “implied consent” because a person agreed to be connected with you and therefore has a “business or personal relationship” with you.

LinkedIn needs to establish a clear way of obtaining “express consent”!

The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation forces us to reevaluate the way we approach potential customers. As business people we have to spend more energy building relationships before we pitch a sale. I have to assume that most small business people don’t intentionally send out SPAM but we all have to re-think the definition of the term. Most of the time we think only about our intention and not how it is received on the other end.

As of July 1, 2014 CASL demands that all commercial electronic messages (CEM) sent to a computer in Canada require consent. This consent can be “implied” but have to be converted to “express consent” within 2 years.

This post like others caused quite a discussion among some sales and marketing friends. After this I have to soften my message a little. It is important to note, that LinkedIn should be a networking tool first and not a tool for hard selling. I agree that a message with 

How will CASL change the way you work?

Please let me know in the comments!

Photo credit: licensed at


What do you think about this post?

I am the the founder of BlueBird Business Consulting (formerly Tweet4Ok). My focus is on Social Media strategy and education. My blog covers topics ranging from how-to social media posts to more general topics of concern for a rapidly changing digital world. Favourite quote: “To succeed in the business of the future we have to become the very people we are trying to reach” ~ Brian Solis


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cendrinemedia 5pts

This is goldn, Frithjof! Thank you for taking the time to look at this new law for us. I needed a quick reference before diving into it, so I'm glad you shared this post with us today!

I feel that, despite being harsh, this law is necessary. It will help business understand the purpose of social media and marketing better. Brands clearly need to start paying attention to their audiences!

BlueBirdBC moderator 5pts

I agree @cendrinemedia time will tell how some regulations are enforced but over all making steps away from spam and towards relationship building is a good thing.
I am looking forward to the end of the CASL hype though. I seem to be talking about nothing else these days.

cendrinemedia 5pts

@BlueBirdBC I guess it has a lot to do with how dependent on the US, Canada has been so far. It's very new to most businesses here, that really don't understand how social media works. 

In a way, this reminds me of Google updates. 

Colin Parker
Colin Parker 5pts

With InMail you don’t have to accept the invitation to message with the person sender. With InMail if the receiver doesn't respond then the , if they don’t the in mail is credited back to the account. So my guess would be that my excepting the message they are consenting to have a dialogue with you. It going to be interesting to see if this law will even be work able. Think about the issues -and how do you deal with it -I spoke to a prospect Friday and have a quotation -now we spoke and he would like to see a proposal -is that express consent -do I have to ask him permission to email it, how do I document it so that the government is happy with it.

Frithjof 5pts

Thanks for your valuable insights Colin! In my opinion the question if you want to read or accept the message is secondary. There are many questions around this and I hope to answer them asap if I can. I would interpret your example as express consent. The question would be: how do you document verbal consent. I think LinkedIn and all social networks might have to add "express consent" to their terms.

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