If someone complains about my mailing list, will you tell me?

If you're following our mailing list rules and verifying all addresses, we'll provide you with the address of anyone who complains so you can remove that person from your list.

And of course, we won't count such complaints as an actual spam complaint against you: it's just a mistake on the recipient's part.

However, if you aren't following our policies, we can't pass along the address of anyone who complains. You'll need to demonstrate that you're complying with the policy to see the addresses.

(That said, we should mention that in most cases, we don't know the address ourselves anyway. That's because most spam reports are sent using anonymous complaint services such as SpamCop or AOL's spam reporting feature.)

Why we don't always provide addresses

There's a good reason we don't always provide addresses of people who complain.

First of all, it shouldn't matter: If we get a complaint and you haven't been verifying the addresses, you'll need to remove all unverified addresses from your list. When you remove all unverified addresses, you will automatically remove the person who complained anyway.

More importantly, this protects us against allegations of "listwashing". Listwashing is the practice of sending email that violates spam policies, then unsubscribing only the few recipients who bother to complain. This behavior is strongly frowned on by people who run mail servers because it's seen as an effort to minimize complaints about spam instead of minimizing actual spam.

If we developed a reputation for listwashing, many organizations would block messages from us on the assumption that we're intentionally allowing spam from our network, and we can't risk that. Our goal is to eliminate spam, not just to minimize complaints. That’s the best way to make sure that other organizations continue to accept all mail from us. In fact, if one of our customers sends spam, we view it as useful when recipients complain to us. It gives us the chance to work with our customer to resolve the problem before other organizations block mail from our servers.

In other words, if a customer is sending spam, we don't want that customer to remove just the people who complain, leaving other recipients on the list. Those people may be complaining to their ISP or an anti-spam list operator instead of us, and mail from our servers could be blocked without us even seeing any further complaints. That's the last thing we, or you, want to happen.