B2B Spam is Dumb and You're Dumb and This Other Guy is Dumb, too

Every so often somebody approaches me to ask me if B2B spam is OK now, because they get B2B spam at their work address. Everybody gets it, they presume, thus it must now be acceptable. Or it was always acceptable and those deliverability guys were just trying to mislead them before.

Nope, B2B spam is still unwanted garbage. Google and Microsoft are the biggest outsource hosts of mail for corporate domains nowadays and they'll tell you flat out that they have no intention of purposely allowing unsolicited mail through, because they know their users don't like it. Sure, you get B2B spam. I get both B2B and B2C spam. That B2B spam doesn't stop because 1. you're not complaining about it enough and 2. it's often sent in such small volumes that spam filters haven't gotten enough data points to understand that it's unwanted.

For number one, I don't blame you. Reporting spam correctly is hard, and spammers try hard to make it harder and more confusing. But I promise you, if you take every B2B spam you get for a week, look up the return-path domain in the email headers, look up that domain in abuse.net, and then send a complaint to the address found in abuse.net, you'll get noticed, and the spam volume will probably go down.

You won't stop the "Sloan / Data Champions" idiots who are trying to sell you B2B lists, because they're based in India, have been doing bad stuff for years, and don't care. Spam filters are getting better at blocking those guys, though. If you want to have some fun with somebody like that, reply and tell them you're interested. Then they'll respond to you from their real domain name, the one they weren't mentioning in the original spam (because they don't want it to get blocked), and then block that domain.

For number two, it's sort of a self-solving problem in the long term. Companies sending more and more B2B spam are going to garner more and more complaints. Technological loopholes, like jumping IP addresses and domains, are getting smaller and smaller. Stuff like DKIM and DMARC pushes all senders to have to use reliable, stable sender identifiers, making it easier for ISPs to calculate aggregate stats across the mail they're sending. I think right now Google and Microsoft are thinking about how to make their platforms better catch B2B spam, and have been thinking about this for a while. Why? Because spam ruins a user's enjoyment of an email platform. Many users blame the email platform for the spam they let through.

And it surely doesn't help when some newly minted, self-proclaimed email marketing expert stumbles on the scene and decides that he's got it all figured out. This isn't even a phenomenon unique to the United States. Over on the Mainsleaze blog, Finnish anti-spam expert Atro Tossavainen highlights one such example from his neck of the woods.

"Hardcore Business Man" Filip Poutintsev is sure that spam isn't a problem. He tries to debunk the myths of spam in a hilariously ignorant post. Top highlights:

  • Spam is bad because it's not wanted. He says most advertising is unwanted. Sure, but legitimate advertising sponsors something, or is done under an agreement. It covers the cost for something. This is completely untrue with spam.
  • It wastes your time when you have to check spam in your mailbox. He says TV ads are worse. Not true for the 4.9 million of us in the USA who 'cut the cord' in 2015. Ever had a mailbox overrun with spam? I have. Do you want to have to dig through a hundred spams for tactical flashlights and medicare scams to find an email from a loved one? Why is that OK for those people to inject that stuff into your mailbox without permission?
  • If you don't want TV or radio ads you can just turn of TV or radio. You can't hide from ads, he says. Is that true? I don't think so. But where they are, they're sponsoring something. Spam is not similarly paying its way.
  • Spam overloads email traffic. His rebuttal to this one is too laughable to bother quoting. He's not a network engineer. Ask Microsoft how much network traffic, processing power and disk space is wasted by spam. Don't ask this guy.

Anybody who's been fighting spam for a while knows that this guy is ignoring the cost shifting argument. Why spam isn't wanted is because it wastes our time and our servers' time and space, and we didn't ask for it, and it's not sponsoring something we asked for. If I tune into Saturday Night Live to watch that Prince tribute, there's a very clear, even though implied, agreement that I'm allowing those commercials onto my TV as they're subsidizing my ability to watch that television program.

If you send me a spam email, you're injecting something into my view without my agreement and without my permission. (And the 'but it's just one argument' fails because it's never just one. What you do today the next three guys want to do tomorrow, and the next nine guys the next day. It literally impedes the ability to deal with email in a timely manner.)

Great minds think alike: More on this topic from Laura Atkins of Word to the Wise.
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