AOL Falls In Love With The Wrong Spam Stats — Says Spam Decreased

from the no,-just-the-complaints... dept

AOL is claiming that their new spam filter has greatly reduced spam, creating nice looking headlines about less spam. Of course, you could question their findings. The details show that what was reduced was spam complaints. This might be a proxy for the amount of spam that got through to inboxes, or it might just show that AOL subscribers have wised up and realized that reporting spam to AOL doesn’t seem to do a bit of good — and they’ve just given up on it.

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Comments on “AOL Falls In Love With The Wrong Spam Stats — Says Spam Decreased”

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Steve Mueller (user link) says:

AOL Spam Filters

Actually, I think you mentioned the member reports out of context, Mike. While the story you linked to did say that member complaints had fallen, you missed or neglected to mention these:

The daily average number of e-mails blocked by AOL’s spam filters fell 50 percent to about 1.2 billion e-mails in late 2004 from a peak of 2.4 billion in 2003.

Attempts made by junk e-mail senders also fell to about 1.6 billion daily, from 2.1 billion last year.

So, if you believe those figures, AOL actually seems to have seen a decrease in spam. There are some possible spins:

  • Spammers are realizing that AOL spam filters are good and have stopped spamming AOL addresses as much or they’re afraid of CAN-SPAM.

    Having some inkling of spammers, that doesn’t seem very likely.

  • Spammers have gotten better at evading AOL’s filters, so not as much gets blocked, invalidating the first statistic. If AOL’s filters aren’t blocking spam that they should, or AOL havs a list of spammers that’s out of date (perhsaps missing bots), that could also invalidate the second statistic.

    However, if that were the case, I’d think complaints would have stayed the same or gone up.

  • Spammers have moved more to SPIM (Spam Instant Messages). Using IMs instead of E-mail is more in-your-face and I don’t know if AOL filters SPIM yet (although users can turn on IM filtering).

So, while I won’t discard the statistics, I do agree they seem to need more supporting information.

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