Clutter and Junk Email in Exchange Online

One of my Office 365 customers has been asking about Clutter and Junk Email – with concerns that Clutter doesn’t move all the mail they think it should and also that more email is being trapped as junk than they expect (or experienced with on-premises Exchange.  I thought it might be useful to cover a few bits and pieces on the topic…

Clutter

Looking first at Clutter, it’s a new capability introduced in Exchange Online a year ago which uses the Office Graph to move lower priority messages out of your way and into a new Clutter folder, with the intention that users can focus on the most important messages in their Inbox.  In essence, not everything received from third parties trying to sell things is junk – you may have newsletters and other updates that are not essential but that you don’t need to read right away. And, as your reading habits change, Clutter learns and adapts.

It’s a nice idea, but sometimes Clutter needs a little helping hand. You can switch Clutter on/off, or help it to learn your preferences by following Microsoft’s advice to use Clutter to sort low priority messages in Outlook on the web. Office 2016 users can also train Clutter in Outlook (the capability is not there in Outlook 2013).

In addition, messages sent from yourself, or from your management chain or direct reports (if you’re an Office 365 Business user) will never be identified as Clutter. It’s also possible for administrators to use a transport rule to ensure that certain messages are not treated as Clutter.

If you want to know more, Tony Redmond (@12knocksinna) has an FAQ with answers to common Clutter questions that I recommend reading.

Junk Email

Junk Email filtering has been around for a lot longer than Clutter and Office 365 uses intelligence built up over time to ?determine which messages are “spam” or junk email. Many messages are trapped before they even get to your Inbox. Sometimes, it’s not clear whether a message is Junk or not and something you intended to receive may be moved to your Junk Email folder in error. In my customer’s case, after a mailbox had been transferred from the on-premises Exchange to Exchange Online, we effectively have a new mailbox in a new Exchange organisation and it needed to re-learn some of the personal preferences around Junk email.

It’s unlikely that internal email will be classified as Junk; however you can edit this following the advice in Microsoft knowledge base article 2545137. It’s also possible to use a transport rule to set the spam confidence level (SCL) to -1 (i.e. definitely not spam) based on given criteria.  In addition, allow and block lists can be created within the spam filter in the Exchange Admin Center.

There’s more information on safe and blocked senders and the various mechanisms that are used in the Microsoft TechNet safe sender and blocked senders FAQ as well as consumer advice on using Junk Email Filters to control which messages you see.

The whole process

The whole filtering/organising process works like this:

  1. Messages identified as possible junk email are automatically moved to the Junk Email folder, and any potentially dangerous content, for example links or attached programs, are disabled.
  2. Next, any Inbox rules are processed.
  3. If you use Sweep in Outlook on the web, it will then organize your Inbox.
  4. Finally, Clutter will analyse the remaining messages and filters those that match a pattern for being ignored or not responded to, based on past behaviour.

Leave a Reply