Gmail to enforce harsher rules in 2024 to keep spam from users’ inboxes

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Google today is announcing a series of significant changes to how it handles email from bulk senders in an effort to cut down on spam and other unwanted emails. The company says that starting next year, bulk senders will need to authenticate their emails, offer an easy way to unsubscribe and stay under a reported spam threshold.

The changes will impact any bulk sender, which Google defines as those who send more than 5,000 messages to Gmail addresses in one day. That could include virtually any business with a decently-sized mailing list, from large retailers to big tech companies to even smaller startups and B2C companies or newsletter writers looking to market themselves through email messaging.

Google claims that it already leverages AI technology to stop more than 99.9% of spam, phishing and malware from reaching users’ inboxes, and it blocks 15 billion unwanted emails per day. But as technology improves, so must Google’s defenses for its now 20-year-old email system.

For starters, Gmail will be building on a policy it introduced last year that requires emails sent to Gmail addresses to have some form of authentication to validate that the sender is who they claim to be. This change was necessary because many bulk senders don’t properly secure and configure their system, which allows an attacker to “easily hide in their midst,” a Google blog post explains. While this reduced the number of unauthenticated messages Gmail users received by 75%, now, Google will require bulk senders to strongly authenticate their emails following a set of documented best practices by February 2024.

It will also require bulk senders to allow users to unsubscribe in a single click and for those unsubscribe requests to be processed within two days.

Perhaps more controversially, Google will also require bulk senders to stay under a clear spam rate threshold — something the company notes is an industry first. This means that if enough users are marking a sender’s emails as spam, the bulk sender could lose access to users’ inboxes.

While Google is announcing the changes in advance of their 2024 arrival, it also notes it’s working with industry partners to institute the new policies as well. Yahoo (which owns TechCrunch), is already on board.

“No matter who their email provider is, all users deserve the safest, most secure experience possible,” said Marcel Becker, senior director of Product at Yahoo, in a statement. “In the interconnected world of email, that takes all of us working together. Yahoo looks forward to working with Google and the rest of the email community to make these common sense, high-impact changes the new industry standard,” he added.

Google noted that many bulk senders already meet the new requirements and it will continue to offer clear guidance before the changes go into effect in February 2024.

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