Spam victims don't care what business unit is responsible for the spam

April 12, 2015

So what happened is that the other day I got some spam that our MTA received from one of the machines. Since sometimes I'm stubborn, I actually tried reporting this to After some go-arounds (apparently the Outlook abuse staff don't notice email messages if they're MIME attachments), I got the following reply:

Thank you for your report. Based on the message header information you have provided, this email appears to have originated from an Office 365 or Exchange Online tenant account. To report junk mail from Office 365 tenants, please send an email to and include the junk mail as an attachment.

Ha ha, no. As I put it on Twitter, your spam victims don't care about what exact business unit is responsible for the specific systems or customers or whatever that sent spam. Sorting that out is your business, not theirs. Telling people complaining about spam to report it to someone else is a classic 'see figure one' response. What it actually means, as everyone who gets this understands, is that Microsoft doesn't actually want to get spam reports and doesn't actually want to stop spam.

Oh, sure, there's probably some internal bureaucratic excuse here. Maybe the team is being scored on metrics like 'spam incidents processed per unit time' and 'amount of spam per unit time', and not having to count this as 'their' spam or spend time forwarding the message to other business units helps the numbers out. But this doesn't let Microsoft off the hook, because Microsoft set these metrics and allows them to stand despite predictable crappy results. If Microsoft really cared, would not be the massive spam emitter that it is. Instead Microsoft is thoroughly in the 'see figure one' and 'we're too big for you to block' business, just like a lot of other big email providers.

(For people who do not already know this, 'see figure one' refers to a certain sort of grim humour from the early days of Usenet and possibly before then, as covered here and here. The first one may be more original, but the 'we don't care, we don't have to, we're the phone company' attitude is also authentic for how people read this sort of situation. Application to various modern organizations in your life is left as an exercise to the reader.)

Written on 12 April 2015.
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Last modified: Sun Apr 12 02:03:08 2015
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