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Are GMAIL and GoDaddy webmail blocking inbound emails with "occupy" in the subject line?

Departments: 

I'm in Chicago, staying at the apartment of an old comrade, across the table from each other on laptops. He has a hotmail account, I have a GoDaddy webmail account. He says he sent me two emails earlier today, but I can only find one. Can't figure that out, so he re-sends it, but after several minutes, nothing appears. He checks the address, and it's correct. He re-sends a second time, to no avail.

Sitting across the table, I send him a test message, which he receives OK. He sends it back to me with the same subject line but with the text of the missing email and I receive it. He gets an idea, for the first time tells me that the word "occupy" is in the title of the repeatedly missing emails. He sends me another email with the same text but the word "occupy" as part of the subject. This mail message vanishes into limbo without an error or failure message. He next removes the word Occupy from the title and and I receive the message. I send him a message with "Occupy" in the subject line and he receives it OK.


I have gmail, hotmail and yahoo accounts as well, so I ask him to send "Occupy" messages to each of these to determine who might be blocking what. He send them from both his yahoo and hotmail accounts. He also sends messages with the word "occupy" mispelled.

Gmail receives the messages with occupy INCLUDING THE MISPELLINGS and sends them all to its spam folder. GoDaddy webmail receives the misspellings, but those with "occupy" spelled correctly never arrive. This is the same whether they are send from my friend's hotmail or his yahoo account.

I urge others to test this phenomenon. That's all.

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Blizzard's picture
Submitted by Blizzard on

extends its reach. I have two Gmail accounts. I can't get a message through with the word "occupy" in the subject line-- it's not even going to the spam folder, just down the memory hole. This shit is seriously fucked. "Don't be evil", what a fucking joke.

Time to switch email providers.

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

I was sending an email yesterday from my gmail account to another one with #OccupyWallStreet in the title. The first try didn't go (got stuck at 42% "server not responding." It was a short message.) The second try went, but may have gone straight to spam. Unfortunately, I don't know the people well enough to ask them to spend time on testing.

But I have never seen that stuck-at-partial-send behavior for a short message on gmail before.

badtux's picture
Submitted by badtux on

As an email administrator, perhaps I can enlighten you a bit about why this might be happening. The spam filtering technology I use (SpamAssassin, which is not the same that Google and Hotmail use but is similar) uses a set of rules to determine what is spam and what is not. Each rule has a score associated with it. Once the total score of applying all those rules rises above a certain threshold, the spam is moved to the end user's spam folder rather than to his inbox. Once the total score rises above *another* threshold, the email is silently dropped (well, it stays in SpamAssassin's database for awhile so duplicates can be immediately dropped without scoring, but the end user never sees it).

So what are these rules? Here some of those rules you might be running into:

Source is a free email service: +2 (they're full of spammers)
Has HTML code in it (i.e. is not plain text): +1 (spam almost always has HTML in it)
Contains images: +2 (spam is almost always full of these).

Now, if you're using a Microsoft email program that a) sends email as HTML, b) attaches a vcard image, and c) are using a free service like Hotmail or Gmail to send the mail with, you will virtually always make it into my spam folder by default -- EXCEPT -- there's one last piece of data used, the secret sauce:

* has email matching this basic pattern ever been marked as spam or not spam by end users, or learned as spam or not spam by scoring 0 or by scoring above the discard threshold? *

This last piece of data is never the *final* deciding attribute. It has a score of maybe +2. But that can be enough to decide whether to dump an email into the spam folder or to dump it into the inbox.

BTW, in your experiment, did the email make it into the spam folder? Please check it, my guess is that it did. If so, try viewing it with all headers and see if your email provider puts the spam scores into the headers. Unfortunately it appears that, unlike the mail server I run, gmail doesn't, so that's not going to be helpful there.

So anyhow, what it appears is that there are a lot of people marking OWS emails as spam when it appears in their inbox. This is a feature of the anti-spam software that is not directly controlled by Google or Microsoft. As a mail administrator, I do tweak my mail scoring rules from time to time, but only with much trepidation and with a temporary relaxation of the scoring thresholds because it often starts scoring unexpected emails as spam. I much prefer relying on the Beysian filtering system (i.e. end users marking emails as spam and not spam) as much as possible, because end users are the best judge of what's spam and not spam, they're a lot smarter than computers (believe it or not). And it appears there's a lot of end users marking OWS emails as spams right now -- maybe because some OWS kiddies are doing email blasts to people who they don't know?

How to get your OWS emails through:

1. Send it as TEXT ONLY with no vcard or other attachment. This is usually a setting in your email program. Most email programs default to HTML nowadays, which causes spam filters to wrinkle their nose in trepidation.
2. Make it a reasonable length -- three paragraphs, not real short, not real long.
3. Send it from a paid email server like from your email address at your ISP, emails from free email addresses always carry a whiff of spammity spam around them due to their popularity with spammers.
4. Send it to ONE PERSON. An email with a CC: to dozens of people might even get discarded by the SOURCE email server, i.e., if you're sending such an email from your Hotmail account, it might not even make it past Hotmail's server.

You do that, and your email will virtually always make it through, regardless of whether OWS kiddies are causing people to file their emails as spams. I say "virtually always" because email is not, alas, guaranteed reliable, SMTP was designed for a much different Internet than the current one. So it goes.

Submitted by lambert on

Eh?

Enough people mark #ows as spam, and it is spam.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

badtux's picture
Submitted by badtux on

Being marked as spam by the Bayesian filter is never sufficient for my mail server (or any other mail server in my experience) to discard a message as spam. It has to have some other attributes of spam too -- like being from a free email server (like Hotmail), having the IP address of a known spam source in the mail headers, having HTML content, etc.

I suppose wingnuts can game the Bayesian filter by sending lots of spam with OWS in the subject line to people with no interest in OWS, but that's a stretch. Wingnuts in my experience simply aren't that smart. It's far more likely that OWS emails are being sent by OWS supporters to people who have no interest in OWS, and are being marked as spam, i.e., the system is working as designed. Which presents a problem if you don't know how to game the system the other way (to get emails through that would otherwise get marked as spam).

MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on

Just sent a message from my yahoo account to my gmail account with "Occupy Wall Street" as the subject header. It arrived in a split second. So YMMV.

lizpolaris's picture
Submitted by lizpolaris on

I tried this experiment between Yahoo mail and Gmail.

From Yahoo, subject line Occupy Town, to Gmail. Message sent and received instantly.

From Gmail, same subject line, to Yahoo. Message sent and received with a slight delay.

Same test repeated with subject line #OccupyWallStreet - no problems either way.

Joe's picture
Submitted by Joe on

I just sent an email to a friend with occupy in the subject line and the body of the email and asked him to let me know when he got it. He responded immediately.

GoDaddy's picture
Submitted by GoDaddy on

Hi there, I'm from GoDaddy.com and wanted to assure you that (like any responsible email provider) we do have various methods in place to protect our servers from spam, but there is no blanket policy against the word "occupy". We've even tested and confirmed this ourselves just to make sure something weird and unknown wasn't slipping by us. I'm happy to see other commenters advising of similar results as well.

To help troubleshoot your exact situation, I urge you to contact our Support staff who are available 24 hours a day by phone or email. Contact info is at http://x.co/WeHelp

Clonal Antibody's picture
Submitted by Clonal Antibody on

I sent from a comcast account to a gmail account with "Occupy SF" in the title, as well as in the body of the message. It worked 5/5 times that I tried.

bungalowkitchens's picture
Submitted by bungalowkitchens on

Not saying that's why your e-mails are blocked. But when I found out about the CEO I yanked my web registrations from GoDaddy and took them elsewhere.

Conformists die, but heretics live on forever.

Elbert Hubbard