March 27, 2007 / 4:41 PM / 13 years ago

E-mail users want more control of inboxes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bombarded by spam, e-mail users are eager for tools like a “report fraud” button that would help weed out unwanted messages that litter inboxes, according to a survey by the Email Sender and Provider Coalition released on Tuesday.

More than 80 percent of e-mailers already use tools such as “report spam” and the “unsubscribe” button to manage their in-boxes, the survey found.

The survey, which was also conducted by marketing research firm Ispos, polled 2,252 Internet users who access e-mail through service providers such as AOL, MSN/Hotmail, Yahoo! and Gmail.

“The direct engagement of consumers has game-changing potential in the fight against spam and other forms of e-mail abuse,” said Dave Lewis, vice president with StrongMail Systems, a member of the coalition and a company that provides software for service providers.

Nearly 80 percent of users surveyed said they use the “report spam” button when they don’t know the sender, while 20 percent said they used it as a quick way to remove their address from a mailing list.

E-mail users typically decide whether to click on the “report spam” or “junk” button based on the address and the subject line without opening the actual message, the survey found.

“That is, I think, a wake up call for marketers,” said Trevor Hughes, executive director of the coalition. “You are getting deleted before it is even opened.”

Nearly all users said they would use an unsubscribe button if it was built directly into their e-mail program. Likewise, users believe there should be a “report fraud” button.

Lewis said up to now, the Internet service providers have relied on proxies for the voice of consumers’ content filters, blacklists and the like in determining e-mail that is wanted.

“The problem with this approach is that unwanted e-mail still bleeds through and legitimate e-mail gets caught up in the filters, impacting the trustworthiness and reliability of the e-mail medium,” he said.

Charles Stiles, who helps manage the billions of e-mails that come through AOL’s system, said a tool such as the “report spam” button benefits all.

“It’s a win for the consumers because they don’t have to see the messages, it’s a win for the (Internet service providers) because we don’t have to store it, manage it and process it, and it’s a win for the sender because they don’t have to pay for all the bandwidth and processing to send it,” Stiles said.

AOL was one of the first Internet service providers to include a “report spam” button. Now AOL, whose entire worldwide mail operation goes through one system, blocks 1.5 billion to 2 billion unwanted e-mails a day, or 80 to 85 percent of all e-mail that crosses its wires.

The survey was accurate to within 2.5 percent, according to the coalition.

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