Why did I get a message saying that a subscriber was removed from a Mailman list due to a spam complaint?

If a subscriber to a Mailman list reports a message as “spam” to their ISP, and that ISP forwards the complaint to us and asks us to unsubscribe the recipient, we will do so.

If you have the Mailman “General Options” > “Should administrator get notices of subscribes and unsubscribes?” feature turned on, you’ll receive a notice when this happens, saying something like “address@example.com has been removed from listname due to a spam complaint; see <http://support.tigertech.net/mailman-complaint-removed>.”

Why does this happen?

Some ISPs, such as AOL, Yahoo, and Hotmail, give their users a button labeled Spam, Report Spam, or Junk.

When someone clicks that button to report a message, some ISPs forward that complaint to us. These ISPs then request that we treat these complaints exactly as if the person had followed the unsubscribe instructions in the original message. In fact, they insist that we do so, saying that they may treat all future list messages as “spam” if we keep sending messages to the same complaining recipient. That would leave you unable to send any messages to AOL or another large ISP.

It’s important to understand that we’re not doing this to punish you. Removing people who complain protects your ability to send messages to other people.

But sometimes people click “Spam” instead of “Delete” by mistake!

That’s certainly true, but unfortunately many people do click “Spam” when they want to be unsubscribed from a list, instead of following the usual unsubscribe instructions.

Because of the ISPs’ policies, we have no choice but to remove people on the assumption that it’s a valid complaint. If we didn’t, the ISP will eventually block or discard all mail from your list (to everyone, not just the person complaining).

If you think the complaint might be a mistake, you should contact your subscriber. If they confirm that it was a mistake, and you’re willing to accept the risk of blocked mail, you can invite them to join the list again. Be sure to remind them that they must not report list messages as spam (we can’t help if an ISP blocks your mail because you repeatedly re-subscribed someone who keeps complaining).

If a person files repeated complaints, we may sometimes be forced to permanently block that address to prevent the ISP from “escalating” the block to affect mailing lists run by other customers.

My subscriber insists that he or she is not reporting any list messages as spam!

This is something the subscriber would need to talk to his or her ISP about. All the ISPs who forward complaints to us say they do so only when a subscriber explicitly takes action to mark a message as spam; they say it never happens as a side-effect of anything else.