What’s the best thing to do with spam?

I was checking my Gmail Spam folder for false positives when I came across a bounced email from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It said:

This message was created automatically by mail delivery software.

A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its
recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed:

[email protected]
(ultimately generated from [email protected])
SMTP error from remote mailer after RCPT TO::
host mx5.ftc.gov []: 550 This address, [email protected], is no longer valid. If you are attempting to report unsolicited e-mail to the FTC for investigation, please use the following address instead:
[email protected].

I’ve been forwarding my spam to the FTC’s spam-reporting address, but it looks like they’ve changed it to a uce.gov address. UCE stands for “Unsolicited Commercial Email.” I wonder why they changed it. Were they getting too much spam at the old address?

So I was faced with the dilemma of what to do with my spam. I could forward it to the FTC’s new address, as they suggest, :fail: it so that it bounces, or :blackhole: it so that it’s simply deleted. I read at rahul.net:

Simply add a forwarder for that email address and forward its mail to the special token:


All mail arriving for that email address will be immediately rejected by our network with an SMTP error. No mail will be delivered to that email address even if a mail account exists for it.See also the DirectAdmin online help at:


We do NOT recommend forwarding mail to :blackhole: as it causes mail to be first accepted and then discarded, thus causing more network traffic and greater server load.

That settles it for me. :fail: is the way to go, despite the possible downside that it’s flooding innocent email users’ inboxes with false failure notices. The reason for this is that spammers often spoof the “from” address, so the bounced notices won’t actually go to them. Oh well, it’s a compromise. And the FTC turns out to be useless.

By the way, I do get false positives — approximately 2%, by my guess.

One Response to “What’s the best thing to do with spam?”

  1. mondine says:

    This has been a hotly-debated topic in Usenet for the years that I’ve been using it (which is fitting, as it’s the source for so many of those forged ‘from’ addresses).
    And there has been rather a definite consensus.
    Spam should be dealt with in one of two ways. Either effectively reported to the appropriate authority, or simply deleted.
    Practices and programs that simply and blindly bounce UCE are socially irresponsible and can be a greater pestilence than many originating sources of spam.
    It’s the electronic equivalent of taking the junk mail from your front porch, and throwing into your neighbour’s yard.
    Bounced mail will rarely, if ever, actually affect a spammer. Only those unfortunate enough to be paying to use the same network resources.

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