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When messages you want to receive are flagged as spam - 03/29/08

From: Email Guy
Subject:       When messages you want to receive are flagged as spam
Date: March 29, 2008 10:53 AM
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Some users have reported that messages they want to receive in their Inbox are sometimes being flagged as spam and going to the Known Spam folder. This is called a "false positive" when our spam filters mark a message as spam but you don't consider it to be spam and want it to be delivered. There are several reasons this can happen. I'll describe some of those and then describe a solution you can use to help us reduce the number of false positives.

Some common causes of false positives are:

  • You have signed up for a mailing list or announcements from a bulk email sender (a company or organization), but many other users are reporting messages from that sender as spam using the "This Is Spam" button in Web Mail. When a sender has a bad reputation as reported by thousands of users, this can result in their messages being filtered for all users.

  • A person that you correspond with may have a compromised computer that has become infected with a virus created by a spammer, and their computer is sending out thousands of messages unknown to that user. When that happens, that sender can get listed as a spammer and all their messages might start getting flagged as spam.

  • In a few cases, regular message correspondence that is not spam might be incorrectly flagged because it has similarities to actual spam and gets caught by a filter. Your reports help to refine the filters to be more accurate.

If messages that you want to receive are being flagged as spam, please follow these steps and we'll try to get it cleared up:

  1. In your spamBlocker settings, make sure the setting for "Delete Known spam immediately" is turned off. That allows you to save and view the messages that were marked as spam. To get to the setting, click on spamBlocker / Settings.

  2. When you get a message in the Known Spam folder that should not be there, select the message (or view it) and click the button for "This Is Not Spam". That sends us a report of the problem.

  3. If after a couple of days, your report using "This Is Not Spam" did not seem to have an effect and the problem persists, then we'd like you to take an extra step to help us investigate it. Report the lastest false positive using "This Is Not Spam" and then also write a new message to us at falsepositivereport@earthlink.net. Provide us with the sender address for the messages that are still being caught in Known Spam, and also the Subject line that was in the last message you reported. This information will help us locate the report for investigation. Make sure you send it from the mailbox where the problem occurred.

If the problem persists, one drastic solution is to turn the spamBlocker level to Off. If you don't get much spam in your mailbox, that might be a workable temporary solution. Doing that will cause all messages to go to your Inbox and nothing will get filtered.

Aside from EarthLink spam filtering, your own personal Blocked Sender List can also block messages from being delivered. Unlike the spamBlocker filter, which puts messages identified as spam into your Known Spam folder for your review, your personal Blocked Sender List prevents delivery entirely, and messages you block that way cannot be recovered. If you have inadvertently blocked a sender, you can edit your block list by clicking on spamBlocker / Blocked Sender List (or Preferences / Blocked Sender List). Before reporting a false positive as described above, please make sure you aren't blocking the messages yourself.

One last thing - if you are using spamBlocker on the High setting, then messages from senders not in your Address Book are delivered to the Suspect Email folder. This is completely separate from the spam filtering that puts messages in Known Spam, so don't confuse the two and only use the steps above when messages are delivered to the Known Spam folder.


    « Previous   |   Showing Comments 26-38 of 38

Posted by: G Bryan   |   August 4, 2008 11:19 PM    |   (26)

Two comments:

1. My most recent "false positive" stats (as of a few minutes ago):

54 messages flagged as "known spam." 13 of those messages are legitimate mail (false positive). Thus, the false positive rate is close to 25%.

2. I continue to be concerned about the unannounced decision to greatly truncate the storage capacity of "Known Spam." I pay for an extra 200 MB of mailbox size. Seems to me that should carry over into the "Known Spam" capacity as well. 100 messages of backlog isn't very much. With the ridiculously high false positive rate, there can be no doubt that many legitimate messages are likely to disappear forever if I don't check the "Known Spam" listings at least a couple of times a day.

Back in the BrightMail days, the "caught spam" capacity was significantly higher.

I can't believe that the typical Earthlink customer realizes how much legitimate e-mail is being systematically thrown away by Earthlink each day.


We're working on this, but to clarify, this almost always only occurs with bulk emailers that are frequently reported as spam by other users, not with personal email correspondence. I understand in your case it is bad, but you are overstating the general problem. That said, we made changes this week that are going to improve that steadily over the next few weeks, and there is another change coming next month that should almost eliminate the trouble. Thanks for your patience.

Email Guy

Posted by: G Bryan   |   August 26, 2008 5:40 PM    |   (27)

[W]e made changes this week that are going to improve that steadily over the next few weeks, and there is another change coming next month that should almost eliminate the trouble. Thanks for your patience.

Not a moment too soon for those changes, in my opinion. I haven't seen any significant difference so far, but it's all so unpredictable -- in general, mail from the very same senders gets through one time and gets blocked another. There's no obvious pattern to it, so it's hard to detect any change.

Of course, genuine whitelisting would solve the problem once and for all. :)


Yes, after the first instance and you whitelisted the sender. I really want to have this feature, but it is not trivial for us to provide and I don't know yet when I can get it. But most false positives should go away soon from the other things we are doing.

Email Guy

Posted by: G Bryan   |   September 4, 2008 1:48 PM    |   (28)

It's hard to be sure, because the spam trapping is still quite unpredictable, but I would say in a gestalt sense that the number of false positives is going down. Mail from Sears/Land's End, Ziff-Davis, and Procter & Gamble, which was being trapped quite often, now tends to get through. So there must be some effort to allow institutional senders' mails to pass.

But there is still a distressing amount of false positive activity. Newsletters from Writers Digest, for example. And I still have the problem that the 100-message limit in the Known Spam directory will be reached in 12 to 15 hours, so I have to check this folder quite often to avoid losing messages.

However, it does look like progress is being made.

I have no problem with systematically whitelisting senders. If that feature is ever introduced, make sure the number of whitelisted senders is made pretty large.



Posted by: G Bryan   |   September 10, 2008 9:40 AM    |   (29)

Me again. As of this week (second week of September) there is a noticeable dropoff in false positives from institutional senders. It's as though the filters are paying more attention to the "This is not spam" button.

I hope I don't jinx it by saying something!


Yes, we improved the handling and response to those reports, and there are still other improvements in process, so you should continue to see a reduction in false positives over the coming weeks. Once we put the final change in place next month, they should go to near zero.

Your feedback is always helpful.

Email Guy

Posted by: G Bryan   |   October 2, 2008 9:24 AM    |   (30)

It's now the beginning of October, and there definitely is a shift in the false positives. Far fewer of them in the Known Spam folder (and those rarely from the major institutional mailers like Sears or Procter & Gamble). Sometimes -- and this is a first -- I check Known Spam and find zero false positives. There has been a corresponding slight increase in junk mail reaching the regular Inbox, but it's still relatively trifling -- maybe one spam message every couple of hours at most.

So it's definitely better. But I still long for a whitelisting solution of some kind.


Posted by: Byron   |   October 8, 2008 7:42 PM    |   (31)

While I have not had a false positive in a few weeks, in the last two weeks the amount of SPAM in my INBOX has increased dramatically - from one or so a week to sometimes as much as 50% of the total new messages in the INBOX. Time to have the filterting company get to work on better filters.

Posted by: Bill Lauterbach   |   October 30, 2008 7:31 PM    |   (32)

how to I get somethig flagged as spam to get to input?, It ought to be easy, like underscoring and saying forwarding it to 'me'

Before you can reply-to or forward a message it must be moved from the Known Spam folder to the Inbox. Then all actions are available.

Email Guy

Posted by: G Bryan   |   October 31, 2008 8:09 PM    |   (33)

Sorry to report that in the last few days, the false positive rate has suddenly jumped. Mail that had been getting through is getting flagged again.


Posted by: Peter Strauss   |   November 3, 2008 8:18 PM    |   (34)

I am having a problem only with email forwarded to me from my gmail address, after being sent there by a Google group.
And when I originate an email from the gmail address, it of course also gets sent to Known Spam.
Have you folks got it in for gmail?
I hope not. For a couple of years at least, I've had no problem getting my group emails via the gmail forwarding to my gmail addy and then down to earthlink. Suddenly, FUBAR.
Hope you can "address" this soon.


Posted by: kevin   |   December 2, 2008 6:55 PM    |   (35)

For the most part, my spamblocker works pretty well. The one exception has been that email that I send to myself from my blackberry (little reminders, you know) get sent to suspect email instead of to my inbox no matter how many times I add my own address to my address book and clear the messages through. Is there a way to fix this? I realized after looking at the source from a sequestered email that every message from my blackberry seems to have a unique return path, could this be the issue? All the "from" fields have the same info- my email address, but the return paths have something like this :SRS0=jxSF+b=4H=earthlink.net=kevingreene@srs.bis.na.blackberry.com. The 6th thru 14th characters vary on each one, like it's a code or routing number or something... Could this be the issue?



It's because you don't have your Blackberry configured to send outgoing mail through the EarthLink server, so it isn't really coming from "you" as in you at EarthLink, it is coming from somewhere else. There is no way to whitelist that message to keep it from going to the Suspect folder because our server views it as being a spoofed sender. But you might be able to change your outgoing mail server setting and fix the trouble, if your particular email software allows this (I think it depends on your BB model, the Pearl allows it). If you can, set it to smtpauth.earthlink.net on port 587 and turn outgoing authentication On.

Email Guy

Posted by: Byron   |   December 18, 2008 6:31 PM    |   (36)

Both the number of spam messages getting through to my Inbox and the number of false positives have taken a dramatic jump in the past few weeks. I report the spam, move the false positives to my inbox and send a report to falsepositivereport@earthlink.net. Those false positive reports now seem to have absolutely no effect whereas in the past I would receive one or two messages from those senders before the messages would again be wrongly classified as spam. Within the last month I have reported three times to falsepositivereport that a message was incorrectly classified yet the next message from this sender does not make to my inbox but is once again in the "Known spam" folder.

Three messages from one sender, three reports they are misclassified, three subsequent messages sent straight to "Known spam".

Does anyone actually read the falsepositivereport account? I seems that no one does and my sending messages there is just an exercise in futility.

Will there be a user-configurable white listing capability when v6 is rolled out? If not, it's time to seriously consider it.

Posted by: tim   |   January 31, 2009 12:44 PM    |   (37)

My largest client's email adresses go straight to known spam in webmail. The mail administrator for that client and myself have been emailing falsepositivereport@earthlink.net for 4 months. There has never been any response. I also continue to classify their email as "this is not spam". The mail admin for rezlaw.com says the mailserver passes all the spam tests. He also says the only response he gets after calling customer service is to email falsepositivereport@earthlink.net. I'm going on 4 months now without ever getting a response from Earthink. Email server info is: rezmail.rezlaw.com ip: I've been told it would help the email admin to at least know why they are clasified as known spam. -Tim

I've sent this to the spam manager for investigation.

Email Guy

Posted by: Matt Meighan   |   April 9, 2009 11:54 PM    |   (38)

You guys really need to have a whitelist feature for the spam blocker - it's frustrating that a provider of your size chooses not to. On April 1, email from a listserv I am on suddenly started getting filtered, though I've received it fine for many months previously. I'll try using the "This is not spam" button but it would sure be simpler if I could just whitelist the sender

    « Previous   |   Showing Comments 26-38 of 38

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