The “This is Spam” Button is Not an Unsubscribe Button! If You Asked for the Email, Don’t Hit “This is Spam”!
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As someone who was at the front line of the spam wars before most people even knew that there was a spam war, I hate spam as much as the next person. In fact, I probably hate spam a whole lot more than most next persons.

And as someone who has spent a great deal of time educating senders on how to “do it right”, convincing them to do it right, and helping them to do it right, I really hate it when senders don’t do it right.


But you know what else I really hate?

I hate it when you subscribe to an email publication or mailing list, confirm that you want to receive that email, and then report it as spam to your ISP.

The “this is spam” button is not an unsubscribe button!

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The “this is spam” button is a “whack this sender because they sent me this email without permission” button.

Those of us who have toiled in the fields of anti-spam have spent a lot of time convincing email senders that the only right way to do it is with permission-based email (in other words they have to have your permission before adding your email address to their mailing list).

In the beginning, nobody had heard of permission-based email, and nobody used it. And so it took a long time to convince senders that they needed to use permission-based email, but convince them we did. We explained to them that it was the gold standard of email practices. ISPs started blocking email that was not permission-based, and demanding that senders prove that they had permission if someone complained that they did not. We told senders that they had to send permission-based email if they did not want to generate spam complaints and get blocked by ISPs.

 

So legitimate senders started doing it right, and using permission-based email – many of them using confirmed opt-in (also known as double opt-in). And guess what?

You are still complaining that it is spam. You still hit “this is spam” on email you have not only requested, but double-requested, by confirming your request!

Oh, not all of you, but many of you. In fact, a whole lot of you do this.

And I have news for you. Your ISP hates you for doing it. Because their job is to protect your inbox from real spam, not email you asked for but then don’t take the time to recognize before your itchy trigger finger hits the spam detonator. Now you have wasted their time because they have to work with the email sender to determine that the email you complained about isn’t spam, because you gave them permission to send you the email.

And senders whose email you wanted hate it. After being told that they have to do it this way to get rid of spam complaints, they are still getting spam complaints, and the complaints are lies. Now you have wasted their time because they have to work with the ISP to prove that the email you complained about isn’t spam, because you gave them permission to send you the email.

And I hate it. Because you do it to us. Now you have wasted our time because we have to work with the ISP to prove that the email you complained about isn’t spam, because you requested to be on the Net Patrol mailing list!

We have worked hard to protect you – to educate legitimate email senders so that they don’t spam you.

Now you need to do your part. You need to not hit the “this is spam” button on email you asked for.

The “this is spam” button is not an unsubscribe button.

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The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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10 thoughts on “The “This is Spam” Button is Not an Unsubscribe Button! If You Asked for the Email, Don’t Hit “This is Spam”!
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  1. The anti-spam systems at nearly all of the largest ISPs are based almost entirely on feedback from users, via the “spam” and “not spam” buttons. However, there are some really smart people developing those systems, and none of us are dumb enough to blacklist a sender based on just one mistaken spam report.

    If you’ve got multiple users clicking “spam” instead of “unsubscribe” — enough to actually get the mail blocked — then there’s probably something else wrong, such as (commonly) the unsubscribe link being too hard to find in your message.

  2. Ever heard of flaming? What I don’t need is a ridiculas diatribe like you sent. I don’t have a so-called spam button in Eudora, and I always try to unsub first. You must be talking to someone else then. I have had senders that refuse to go away no matter what I do, so I just fiter them to trash. May be a good time for this now.

  3. I am sorry. It was a mistake. I have resubscribed using a different email address. Keep up the good work.

  4. I think the SPAM button is bogus anyways, A friend of mine works at a ISP and he says they dont do anything when people use that button, all the complaints they get are filtered directly to the trashcan.

    He says that if they had to take people serious about SPAM they would need to hire 1000 more people and that is not going to happen.

    So I press it as much as I want, I dont care, if I dont remember subscribing to something I hit SPAM.

  5. Do you have any sources or companies (legit double-opt-in senders) who have commented publicly on this? I kind of knew it was a problem, but I’m trying to ascertain the scale.

  6. I don’t HAVE a this-is-spam button, so I don’t really know, but can’t that person with a laptop customise the page so that the spam button and the delete button aren’t side by side?

  7. I feel your pain. But I also feel like I am on the receiving end of a little misdirected anger!

    I doubt the folks reading this are the offending parties (hey – the ones you’re complaining about have already hit the spam button and are outa here.) And I agree with the other responders that there are other reasons you may sometimes end up classified as spam, including proximity of the “spamâ€? button to the “deleteâ€? button. The cause is not always laziness, lack of consideration, character defects, or confusion over how to unsubscribe!

    Frankly, in most cases, it is senders doing the abuse, not receivers. And in the end, it is really not the receiver’s responsibility to look out for the sender. As frustrating as it may be for you, it’s all part of doing business. And it’s been my experience that scolding is not usually an effective marketing technique for hanging on to those you want to keep. ☺

  8. Just a comment on your SPAM button is not an unsubscribe button. I always use unsubscribe UNLESS there are those “legitimate senders” who either have no unsubscribe link OR when you unsubscribe… they keep sending them. If they will fix that, I will stop SPAM “legitimate” senders. I like your newsletter! Thank you for the great information.

  9. Sheriffdave has a point: the problem is partially due to design of e-mail clients. Maybe Microsoft, Mozilla, etc. should be approached about this.

    As a non-expert on the design of e-mail clients, I have a question. I can understand that the Spam button would work as you say for webmail (i.e., e-mail that is NOT downloaded to the local computer), but I am puzzled by the implication that this also applies to e-mail which has been downloaded to the local computer. Since I often scan/read it there OFF-line, how does it manage to communicate with the ISP or the sender?

  10. Only problem is after reading the articles you send/ I subscribe to (yes I said READ) I have to click on the DELETE button because it does not just go away like an aol account.
    BUT WHEN USING A LAPTOP AND SCROLLING TO DELETE AND SPAM BUTTON IS NEXT TO EACH OTHER….ONE OUT OF TEN TIMES IT CLICKS ON THE SPAM BUTTON.
    Believe me if I could immediatly hit a button to say it is not spam I would.

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