Gmail Spam Filter Getting Worse

I’m sure it can’t be just me but I think Gmail’s spam filter is deteriorating. Over the last few weeks, I have noticed a few more spam mails ending up in my inbox. Then a couple of days ago, I noticed a few false positives. Now it seems like its an epidemic!

Yesterday, I had to rescue at least 50 emails marked as spam. Most of these were regular mailing list mails I’ve been getting for ever.

I’m finding that most, but strangely not all, my blog comment notification emails are marked as spam. Note that this is not the moderation notification. That gets through ok. But when I approve the comment here on the blog, the notification email proper gets flagged as spam and I have to rescue it.

What gives Google? When I mark a mail has ‘Not Spam’ are you learning? Thunderbird does! It seems you do not.

I’m expanding this post to clarify my grumble somewhat.

I know that Gmail has to deal with millions of spam emails a day, they do a very good job. I also know that the spammers adjust their spam. I can see that when a new mass mailing gets through for a day (sometimes two), but then stops as Google adjust their filters to catch them.

My big, big, big concern is that almost all of the false positives are from senders I’ve been receiving mail from for more than a year.

I don’t mind the odd false positive, but more than 50 in one day!

For those who mentioned it, I do use thunderbird, for exactly the same emails and more: Gmail only gets copies of my mail. Thunderbird hasn’t given me a false positive for six months. Not one! To be fair I get more spam in my inbox with Thunderbird.

For me the tool not catching enough spam and having to deal with it by hand is a nuisance, but if I accidentally delete just one legitimate email because it got put in my spam folder as a false positive is unforgivable.

55 thoughts on “Gmail Spam Filter Getting Worse

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  3. Well, so far, I’ve been able to blanket-delete all the mail in the spam folder and no spam has reached my inbox. What I have noticed is a slight increase over the past few months of overall spam, although that could be attributed to a variety of reasons and they’ve all gone straight to the spam folder.

    What do you mean by blog comment notification emails, if they’re not the moderation notification? I’ve only ever gotten Please Moderate, unless you set it so you get emailed every time a comment shows up.

  4. Y’know, I’ve noticed the same thing. Seems like all of my most anxiously awaited mail is sent to the spam folder, and suddenly all of my viagra is in my inbox once again.

    Too bad we can’t set safe words and phrases, and unsafe too. That’d make their filters so much better.

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  6. I’ve got a few weird ones, but nothing serious so far. It’s frustrating when they do get through though, and are extremely obviously spam. It makes me wonder what Gmail is even doing with it’s time.

  7. Zoogies,
    I do get both the administrator moderation notifications. They are tagged in gmail as ‘blog-comment’ and filtered out of the inbox. I get them from several blogs I manage.
    Then, when the I’ve approved the comments, I get the post author’s notification, but only for my own posts.

    As an illustration: All 10 moderation notifications for comments on this post were ‘moved’ to the correct tag ‘folder’. But when I approved them eight of the new comment notifications were flagged as spam, the other two were not! Very strange.

    Everyone, I’m glad its not just me.

  8. Yes! I’ve noticed a definite deterioration in the last few weeks… now I get least 2/3 spams in my inbox every day when I used to get 1 a week.

    Very disappointing… the spam-proofing was the best feature of Gmail when I first started using it.

    Maybe spammers have had time to tweak their scripts so now they’re one step ahead.

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  10. Yeah, most of my blog comments come through from gmail marked as spam. I have clicked the ‘Not Spam’ button sooo many times but it makes no difference!

  11. Gmail has a tiny detail that ca help detecting why (or should I say “on behalf of who”) you’re receiving spam.
    Example: you register yourself on the Foo Forum. Instead of your standard address, you provide . ptioally, you can then create a label “Foo” for every mail with that address on the “To:” field. You receive the mails normally, but you can have a unique address to every person/entity worth distinguishing from others. If you receive spam addressed to , there a few reasons for that, other than: the Foo Forum owner is selling e-mails to spammers.

    DISCLAIMER: “Foo Forum” was used with a metasyntatic purpose. If there is a “Foo Forum”, it is a mere coincidence, and they are not necessarily selling e-mails to spammers.

  12. Hey Mike — I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one. I am getting a ton more spam showing up in my inbox and a lot of false positives in the SPAM folder. Let’s hope Google’s listening and working on this problem. Cheers

  13. I get almost 500 e-mails a day in my GMail account. I too get a FEW spams in my inbox, but that is to be expected. If you think they can stop them all, you’re kidding yourself.

    I too get a FEW false positives. With the volume of mail hitting their mail servers, it’s to be expected.

    Nobody can stop all of the spam from hitting your inbox, and nobody can guarentee there won’t be a few screw-ups.

    With the volume of mail I get to that account, and that is only 1 of many email addresses I use, the false positives and junk that ends up in my inbox is so small I won’t even try to do the math.

    Keeping in mind that the service is still “Beta”, for my money (oh wait, it’s FREE) I’d say they do a very good job.

    I work for an ISP that is not anywhere as large as google, but with the 3000 email addresses I am responsible for, I filter out OVER 21 MILLION SPAMS a month! Imagine what they have to deal with.

    Last, any blog comments I get do not get trapped as spam. Well, maybe a couple have, but the vast majority have not.

  14. João,
    Thanks for your advice. I already do this through my main domains (Gmail only gets copies of everything). So I do indeed register almost everything uniquely: somewebsite@mydomain, someforum@mydomain, etc.

    The great thing about thunderbird is that I can see, and sort by, the recipient of the mail, so it is really easy to identify the random names in the spam mail. I can quickly delete everything that is to sales@, info@, tom, dick, and harry@, because I know I have never used those addresses.

  15. That’s so odd. I get many emails in a day, some spam, most not, and I haven’t seen any change in the quality of spam detection. With that in mind, at least for my experience, it just seems like the spammers may be finding new tactics.

    One thing I have noticed when clearing out the spam folder is that there do seem to be more spammers who are using techniques a little more normal minded, which may be throwing off some of the detections. Just a guess.

    Like, used to, we all know we’d get those really cheesy, L33T email subjects or very obvious spam-filled emails. The spam I seem to be getting lately is a lot more levelheaded sounding. For example, instead of seeing a subject like “WUD u LIKE TO OWN a NEW CAR? For FREE!!!!1!” I’m seeing things like, “Lelia, would you like a new car?” I would imagine the change in grammatical syntax that SOME spammers are opting to use has thrown off the detectors. But that’s just my theory; like I said, I’ve not had this problem (yet).

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  17. I have noticed this too. I had a look in my junk folder and had to pull out over 50 emails. Some where fairly important and could no way be considered spam.

    This happens more often than spam ending up in my Inbox.


  18. I’ve noticed that over the last 2 weeks or so the spam filter’s performance has been not far from useless, it has filtered out over 50 legitimate emails, I had even set up a filter to label these mails with one of my own labels.

    These were all very important and to be honest I would rather turn the filter off (can this be done?) as now I have to go through the whole of the spamn folder anyway.

    Google this is rubbish – sort it out!

  19. Yep, I’ve noticed the exact same. It’s been acting quite strange as of late.

    As with you Mike, all of my WordPress comments are being directed to spam (read: annoying as all holy hell).

  20. My blog comments are making it through no problem (even my Spam Karma digest reports, which contain the text of every spam comment I get in a 24 hour period). However, I am getting about 50% of my spam making its way through to my inbox. What gives??

  21. Does any of you know how to work around the gmail spam filter? What I’m looking for is a free, good & online spam filter that I can route my mail through before it goes to my gmail account – this will put less pressure on gmail’s ability to sort it all out.
    Does such a service exist?

  22. For me false positives are really bad on Gmail. I’ve only been using the service for a couple of months so I can’t really tell if it is a new problem or one that has been around forever.

    I’m not subscribed to any lists, its appears to be email that is Popped off my mdaemon server. The odd thing is that I have rules setup, but the rules don’t seem to make the email non-spam as I think they should.

    Tom J

  23. Has anybody done a head to head test on Gmail vs. Yahoo vs. Hotmail spam detection? Are things getting better yet in Mountain View?

  24. I’ve noticed that too: More false positives over the past serveral days. Today, in fact, Gmail flagged Google News Alert as spam. Some of the false positives were from individuals whose email had no particular spam-like qualities.

  25. Thanks for mentioning the problems! I made the same observation: gmail spam filter suddenly got terribly bad. Even after marking 20 legitimate mails from the same sender as “not spam” it keeps putting these mails into spam. Other mails marked as spam are completely “harmless”.

    I have no idea what´s going on in gmail´s “brain”…

  26. I agree, gmail spam filter can have their problems.
    Anyway I still receive too much spam messages and it’s difficult to analize all of them. So I’ve written a couple of PHP script that connects to gmail and reads spam emails data. It stores it in a database table and you can later review it from a webpage with some nice graphics. Check it out, follow my webpage address. Hope you like it.
    Jose Canciani.

  27. I have also noticed the gmail spam problem getting worse. I am now getting spam in my inbox, whereas before Iused to get none. I used to go thru the spam just to make sure there were no false positives, then I stopped because it was correct. I am now wondering, how many false positives I have deleted.

    I get around 50 – 100 spam emails in my gmail everyday. I really dont want to have to sort through all the emai….

    Oh well….

  28. I am also noticing … a maddening number of SPAM showing up in my in-box. Good Lord! Where did I visit? What did I do … to open invitation to such an onslaught? I’ve been reduced to opening a “new” gmail account (but of course must revisit the “old” to search for mail from those who haven’t gotten the message). It is, as I’ve said … maddening. Particularly since the first address is where I’m holding all the special, dear, personal and private mail which I wish to save. Ugh! Any hope for a cure?

  29. I would like to disable Gmail’s spam filter altogether. Since I use ‘mailwasher’ (a great product if anyone is interested), I can bounce/delete incoming spam before it gets to my inbox (I use outlook express). Eventually that pretty much eliminates incoming spam because it creates the appearance of a non-functioning email addresss. I’ve found that managing my own spam works a lot better, and good emails don’t wind up tagged as spam. But, strangely, Gmail doesn’t allow disabling of it’s annoying and inacurate filter. Kudos to Gmail for allowing me to use Outlook express without having to pay any annoying fees, but it would be a great enhancement if the spam blocker could be disabled. – AF

  30. One tip is to just add those mailing list email addresses to your address book in gmail. The spam filter wont touch them any more.

  31. Can Gmail’s spam filter be disabled by adding some kind of wildcard email address to the contact list / address book?
    Like ?

    Is it true that the contact list is also a whitelist?

  32. Does it strike anybody else as odd that we are having lengthy discussions about what is right or wrong with various spam filtration systems, instead of discussing real solutions to the SPAM pandemic? We have all these systems to counteract spammers, but no real method with teeth to put a stop to it.

    I have a solution. On the first offense a spammer loses his pinky fingers. Second offense we take the ring fingers and so on. Good luck spamming me after five offenses. :))

    Oh and back on the original topic, has anybody discovered a way to completely disable all Gmail spam control?

  33. I’m also experiencing this problem. I’m forced to go through my spam to avoid important messages to be deleted. The good spam filtering was exactly why I totally switched over to Google but it seems I’ll have to reconsider things.

  34. I have big problems with Gmails spam filter: I have to rescue regular e-mails on a daily basis from the spam folder. I even add these recipients to my contact list, but even that does not seem to work always. I doubt Gmail learns, because every time I click “this email is not spam”, but the same sender might end up in my spam folder AGAIN! It is very frustrating. I think of dumping gmail all together.

  35. ARRGH! Too many false positives and I download my emails so I don’t usually get them. I DON’T WANT my spam folder on in Gmail. I’d rather have them downloaded to my email program and bounce them back to the senders, which has cut down on the number of spam I’ve gotten.

    Thanks for trying, Gmail. I appreciate it and with my one account, you do a bang-up job but let ME decide if I even WANT you to sort my mail. How do I turn off my Gmail spam filter? Grrr…

  36. Of course, same problem. Legitimate messages ends up in the spam folder and i lost important business contacts because of this issue. It must be a “disable spam filter” button. It’s so heavy work to disable this filter in google software? I’m a programmer and i KNOW that’s a very easy job. Why there is such politics? Why have pop access if we can lose important emails because of false positives?
    This thread must go to google team, it’s a good thing if somebody will make something about that.

  37. I am thinking about this resolution:

    I have two gmail account: and

    Login to -> Setting -> Filters -> Create a new Filter -> type into the field To: -> click Next Step -> type into the field Forward it to: -> click Create Filter to finish.

    Gmail to gmail so that emails can not be sent to Spam box. But I do not know gmail will apply filter to all box (include Spam box) or to Inbox only?

  38. Gmail’s spam filter is far and away the worst I’ve ever seen. It filters around 20-30 emails per day as spam, and the false positive rate is typically 50-60 percent, which is worse than having no filtering at all because false positives can cost you big.

    I use a mail client and POP. A while back, when I was unemployed and job hunting, Gmail very kindly and thoughtfully filtered about 80% of all my emailed job offers to the Spam folder, preventing me from ever seeing them. This unnecessarily extended my period of unemployment by weeks at least, probably more like months, and cost me many thousands of dollars of potential income.

    None of this would be a problem if there were JUST. AN OPTION. TO TURN OFF. THE DAMN. SPAM. FILTER.

  39. I get spam every day in my gmail account- sometimes more than 5 or 6– always the same old same old and I get no spam whatsoever in my yahoo mail- so WHAT is google doing? I’m going to close my account! It’s a drag!

  40. Try AntiSpam, a ultra light spam filter

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    Scan the mail header AND also a number of lines from the mail body

    Can check all hosts found in the mail header against DNSBL (“Real-time Blackhole List”)

    many other features…

    AntiSpam uses UIDL extensively. This key feature is not present in many spam filters, wich can lead to wrong inbox operations with them!

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