January 2015 ESP Spam: Some Notes….

I see that Atro Tossavainen graphed the spam that we saw in January. Atro and I manage a substantial spamtrap collection together, so I have seen what he posted about. Nothing there surprised me except the hugely disproportionate amount of spam Topica sends to our spamtraps. I’ve blogged twice about Topica, and in the last blog recommended blocking their /22 because of the amounts of spam and probability that little or no non-spam email is sent from them any more. However, I did not realize that we were seeing twice as much spam from Topica as from ExactTarget, which sends several orders of magnitude more email than they do.

A couple of things to keep in mind here:

  • Spam/Legitimate Email ratio. The chart shows only spam, not how much legitimate email that ESP sends.
  • Proactive anti-spam measures. The chart does not show what measures the ESP takes to prevent spam.
  • Response to spam complaints. The chart does not show how responsive each ESP is to spam complaints, and whether they respond effectively to users who don’t have a blocklist or a blog.

Nobody except each ESP knows exactly how much email it sends and for whom; the best publicly-available data is at Senderbase. However, except for Topica, every ESP named on the chart sends significant amounts of legitimate, non-spam transactional and bulk email. Users do request much of this email, although often by pre-checked “subscribe me” checkboxes on a web form, which I do not consider valid opt-in. Users sometimes even want this email, particularly when it is transactional rather than bulk. (Such as a receipt from a purchase.) Moreover, several of these ESPs have strong proactive antispam measures, and several of them respond quickly and properly to spam complaints.

Primarily, the graph in the previous blog primarily illustrates just how much spam gets sent by companies and ESPs that are making at least some effort not to spam. :/ It is a persistent problem.

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