The New York Times accidentally spams eight million readers

An email appeal from The New York Times offering readers a special deal to not cancel their subscriptions was accidentally mass-emailed to about 8 million people on Dec. 28, rather than the 300 individuals for whom the message was intended.

“An email was sent on Wednesday afternoon from The New York Times in error,” said Eileen Murphy, VP of corporate communications, in an emailed statement. “This email should have been sent to a very small number of subscribers, but instead was sent to a vast distribution list made up of people who had previously provided their email address to The New York Times. We regret the error.”

Amy Chozick, corporate media reporter for The New York Times, confirmed in a tweet that the “vast distribution list” was about 8 million people and was intended for only 300.

At first, the Times used its Twitter account to inform readers that the email was not from the newspaper company. It later retracted that through a company statement, which said a Times employee was responsible for the email blast.

Initially, media reports questioned whether the message was, indeed, from The New York Times, especially as it contained a nonworking email address. Some suggested hackers may have defeated the data security of email vendor Epsilon — which experienced a security breach in March — and stolen the Times readers’ data.

Reuters later reported a spokeswoman at the newspaper as saying human error was the cause of the embarrassing incident, not an attack by hackers.

The email in question hoped to persuade customers to stick with home delivery by offering a 50% discount for a period of 16 weeks.

When asked about Epsilon’s role and the circumstances that would lead to a Times employee sending out marketing emails and follow-up actions on the part of The New York Times, Murphy would not comment beyond the official company statement.

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