Surprise, Marketers Hate Spam Filters

After installing SpamAssassin last March, the spam on my 7-user server dropped from roughly 80-100/week to one or two a month.

So it’s not a big surprise that e-mail marketing firms are getting nervous, starting with a smear campaign against SpamAssassin. Gord Sears’s column in his marketing newsletter calls it a violation of free speech, demanding a law against server-side filtering software. Paul Myers, in his You HAD Mail column on, claims that SpamAssassin could bounce valuable mail like “discussion list posts,” “newsletters that you requested,” and “LOTS of personal emails from friends and family.”

I want to clear up a couple misunderstandings: First, the recommended SpamAssassin configuration flags e-mail as spam before forwarding it to the user, allowing for simple filtering in the client. It doesn’t delete the mail, although you can configure procmail that way, if you like. Any ISP that quietly deleted e-mail without consent wouldn’t be very popular for long.

Second, Spam Assassin has to be tailored for the individual. For the first week after installation, I had to add a few newsletters and discussion lists to the “whitelist,” which tells Spam Assassin never to filter e-mails with a particular “From” address or subject. After that, Spam Assassin very rarely accidentally flagged good e-mail as spam. And it has never once mistakenly flagged an e-mail from someone I know as spam.

It’s not a perfect system, but it’s a depressing necessity.


    oh wow, big surprise, a couple of email marketing shills don’t want you to be able to filter out the way they make a living. If I was an ISP customer, I’d want the ability to opt out of it if I choose, but damnit, it isn’t some god given right for their messages to make it to my eyeballs.

    I’ve been running SpamAssassin on one mail account for a few months now, it’s worked like a champ with only 1 false-positive that I didn’t care to receive in the first place.

    Oddly enough, today I received carefully worded spam that only produced a .9 on the hit scale (my threshold is 4.5), which I think is the lowest I’ve seen a piece of spam get.

    It’d be great if the SpamAssassin guys would distribute the updated rulesets by themselves, or bundle a cron-able script with the distribution that regularly downloaded new copies of the ruleset files from their site. I guess I could write one…

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