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Paul Oms
Paul Oms

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What happens when you send an email to spam?

TDLR: When you hit “Report spam”, this happens:

  1. The offending email is moved to the spam folder
  2. Spam detection systems are updated
  3. If registered, an email complaint is sent through the FBL program in ARF format
  4. The original sender should take action to prevent further spam

Read on for more details, the extended, original post is on the OhMySMTP blog here:

When you hit "Report Spam", at a minimum most email clients will place the email in a spam folder, and many providers will also update their spam detection models to prevent future spam.

That is helpful, but what about the person who sent the original email? If it genuinely is spam, then who cares? But perhaps the email was mis-categorized, or the sender wasn’t aware that it would be marked as spam. They need to know about spam reports to correct the issue.

There’s a solution: Feedback Loops (aka FBLs). FBLs are systems that email inbox providers have set up to send back details of any emails that have been marked as spam to the original sender's platform.

Email providers and high volume senders can register for the FBL with the email providers, and they will share these spam reports (also known as Complaints) to a Feedback email address. The sender can then review these and choose to stop sending to the addresses or take other action.

There are FBL programs at the big inbox providers (Google, Microsoft, Yahoo), and have consolidated many smaller systems. Reports are sent using the Abuse Reporting Format.

Going through the FBL process can take a long time (hours or days), and many senders/services are not registered in the first place.

Therefore to reduce spam in your inbox your best bet is to look out for unsubscribe links or use temporary email addresses and turn them off when done.

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