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Fighting Recruiter Spam with PHP – Proof of Concept

Ever since I moved off of Google services (due to quality, not privacy concerns), I’d been looking for the perfect email service. Having tried several, and having been with FastMail for a while now, I came to the realization that there’s no such thing. The biggest concern I have with modern email providers, is the fact that they are all quite bad at spam control.

I don’t mean the “Nigerian prince” type of spam, which is mostly blocked successfully (unless you’re using FastMail – they can’t even recognize those) but stuff that I’m really, really not interested in getting. Case in point, recruiter spam.

Illustration of blocked email

In this tutorial, we’ll get started with building a custom email processor which can read individual emails, run them through some predefined rules, and act on them. The end result will be very similar to what many providers offer out of the box, but it’ll lay the groundwork for more advanced aspects in future posts. Example uses of our app:

  • when recruiter-type keywords are detected, reply to the email with a template response and delete it. This is possible to some extent with rules that most email providers offer, but those aren’t very detailed, and usually don’t support variables.
  • when companies keep sending you emails even after you unsubscribe or report them for spam (e.g. Ello), the engine should remember these and in the future purge them automatically. Some providers (e.g. FastMail), won’t stop a sender from getting into your inbox even after hundreds of spam reports.

This way, we can keep the provider we’re used to, but also do some manual improvements their team just didn’t know how to do.

In this post, we’ll focus on the first use case.

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