Gmail has a spam problem

blue and brown cardboard boxes

Or rather, the rest of us have a Gmail spam problem…

When running a small mail service, one thing that requires the most effort is making sure your outgoing mail is deliverable. When delivering to certain big mail service providers, if your mails aren’t supported by a strict SPF policy, don’t have DKIM signatures, or come from an IP address without a good reputation, then there’s a very good chance that they will either end up in the spam folder of the recipient, or simply won’t be delivered at all. Usually though, if all those things are configured correctly then your mail will at least be accepted (even if in some cases it may take some convincing by your recipients that no, this mail is not in fact spam).

But as a small provider, once you’ve overcome those hurdles, usually you won’t encounter too much trouble (unless UCEPROTECT has decided to blocklist your ISP’s entire IP address space…)

If you’re a medium-sized provider of a free email service however, you’ll find life is much harder. When you provide a free email service, spammers and scammers will inevitably want to abuse it. Naturally you will make every effort to keep spammers off of your platform, firstly because no-one with a responsible mindset ever wants to provide a haven for such people, and secondly because if your servers do start sending out a lot of spam, other providers will block you (sadly, the better job you do of making your servers have a good reputation, the more tempting a target it is for spammers to use – that makes it a neverending battle).

There is an inherent imbalance of power in the email space. Certain providers (such as Gmail, Outlook) are “too big to block”, whereas smaller providers are being held to an insanely high standard, particularly by those bigger providers, and if the smaller providers get blocked it can be devastating to their users.

This status of being too big to block can be really problematic for the rest of the world if they start being a source of spam…

And in the past month, 100% of the spam I have received that has got through my mail server’s spam filtering has come from Gmail accounts. There seems to be a large increase in volume of such spam that started early in December. Almost all of it is Bitcoin/trading-related. I’ve forwarded every such piece I’ve received to Gmail’s abuse address in the hope that they’ll do something about these accounts, but it seems clear that Gmail, despite being apparently good at filtering incoming spam, are doing a very bad job of blocking outgoing spam right now.

Main photo by Hannes Johnson

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