Can Someone At Google Please Turn The Gmail Spam Filter Down A Notch?

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Daily Crunch: The-Dream Edition

Warning: this is sort of a personal pet peeve of late, so if you only care about reading general tech news, you might wanna skip this one.

I’ve been a happy Gmail user for years, and never had any complaints about its ability to separate legitimate emails from spam. Nevertheless, I’ve made a habit out of regularly checking my spam folder out of fear of missing important emails, even though I used to have to recover only one or maybe two messages per month. Now I’m glad I made a habit out of doing that.

Since about a week and a half ago, I’ve noticed that legitimate emails are being marked as spam at increasing rates, to the degree where I have to check my spam folder as often as my regular inbox in order not to miss breaking news from sources or via our contact page, or even emails from TechCrunch colleagues.

As you can tell from the screenshot above (click through for a bigger version of that image), most of the emails in my spam folder this morning are messages I want to read or scan at least. Most of them do not contain more links than emails that hit my inbox, some come from people who I’ve been receiving emails from for years, and one was event sent by my new TC colleague Evelyn Rusli … from her Gmail account. I’ll save you the trouble of trying to count: 6 out of 31 emails in that screenshot were actually spam, the rest were legitimate messages.

Needless to say, if you work for a blog like the one you’re reading now, this is really bad.

I’ve asked my Twitter followers if they are Gmail users and have also noticed this trend, and from what I can gather I’m far from alone in this (see responses here, here and here), although some say this started occurring for them months and not weeks ago – and some haven’t noticed anything strange whatsoever.

Either way, I contacted Google about the problem too, and a company spokesperson said:

“We are always making adjustments to help improve the spam detection in Gmail. Our spam-fighting abilities are a large part of the reason why many users choose to use Gmail. We make best efforts to only flag spam email, but users can also help us learn by clicking the “Report spam” and “Not spam” buttons.”

From what I understand, Google’s internal statistics do not suggest that there’s an increase in legitimate emails being filtered out, nor is there any indication of an increase in false positives (which I don’t have a problem with). Basically, they seem to suggest it’s not a general issue and that some emails are simply falling through the cracks in my case.

Frankly, I doubt it, based on my conversations about this on Twitter and the fact that the issue popped up one bad day and hasn’t gone away since. The main problem is that there’s no way for me to manipulate the automated filter – Google simply suggests creating filters per message / contact or to constantly add people to my Contacts list, which is virtually impossible at this scale.

So I guess I’m stuck with checking two folders instead of one until Google makes another adjustment in my favor.

Has the spam filter being overactive for your Gmail account as well of late?

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