Users wonder if anything really happens when they use the “This Is Spam” feature in Web Mail, since they usually don’t see an immediate result. We hope to add some features later that allow you to see reports about the effect of your own reporting. But in the meantime, know that several very useful things do happen, and please continue to use that feature. Here are some of the things that happen when you report a message as spam:
- The IP number of the message origination is automatically checked against public blacklists of known spam sources, and against lists of dynamic IP numbers. A dynamic IP number is one reserved for assignment to individual end-user’s computers on a per-connection basis and should never be hosting a mail server that originates messages. So email that comes from a server at a dynamic IP number is almost always being generated by spam-bots on compromised computers (search Google for “bot-net” for more info). When an actual human user sends email they should be sending through a legitimate mail server hosted by their provider, or they host their own mail server on a fixed IP number that they own. So when you report a message as spam, and the originating IP number is found to be a dynamic IP number, that IP number is added to a global block list at EarthLink and no more email is accepted from that IP number. So in these cases, the result of your report is almost immediate. That doesn’t mean you won’t get more spam from the same sender, since the spammer may use a large bot-net that contains many compromised computers. But at least one source gets blocked, and over time many do. Our IP block list has over 200 million blocked numbers at any given time.
Note that the IP block described above does NOT result in blocking a real user from sending legitimate email, as they will be using the *outgoing* mail server set in their email software, which is not the same as the mail server where EarthLink accepts incoming email from other servers (MX server). Only connections to the latter are blocked, which doesn’t affect anything legitimate that a user is doing, it only blocks the spam-bot mail server running on the unsuspecting user’s computer.
- If the originating IP number is found on a public blacklist of known spam sources or open proxies (such as the CBL), your report results in it being blocked from sending any more email to EarthLink users, just as described above.
- The messages you report are compiled and analyzed along with all other reported spam, to create new content-based filtering rules that recognize the characteristics of that particular spam, but in a way that prevents false-positive blocking of legitimate messages. Not every spam report can result in a new rule being created, but when a critical mass of similar spam is reported, it does often result in a new block being created. Once a rule is created, those messages are then flagged as Known Spam for all EarthLink users, and deleted according to your own account settings.
- The total count of reports from the “This Is Spam” feature is closely monitored and tracked, and when we see that number going up or down, we know how effective our efforts are at blocking spam.
So yes, we do act on your reports of “This Is Spam”. Please do keep using this feature. And watch for some news later this year about us creating ways to give you more insight into the direct effect of your own reporting.