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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

‘Never reply all, in any circumstances’: Here’s why your UF inbox was overrun

email spam
email spam

“Dude leave me alone.” “Dear James Martin stop this nonsense!!” “Why are there two Garrett’s here?” “Might be better in French. Lol.” “STOP MESSAGING ME.”

These are a fraction of the countless emails caught in a “reply all” loop Monday morning.

Hundreds of UF students and faculty received an email with the subject line, “DataLake roles in AD.” Dozens of frustrated and confused emails rained into university email inboxes with replies from confused recipients. The messages ranged from requests to be removed from the email list, questions on if the message was related to charges on their One. UF account, to all-caps messages expressing irritation and requesting people to stop “blowing up” their email. One person even sent a meme featuring Patrick from “SpongeBob.”

The original email was not meant to be sent to such a broad audience, but rather a smaller list of recipients, UF spokesperson Steve Orlando wrote in an email to The Alligator. It was not meant to be delivered to students, faculty and staff members across Florida. UF provides information technology services to state universities, which is why FSU and FAMU were also impacted, he wrote.

At first it was funny, said 22-year-old UF international business master’s student David Steinfeldt. But after a few minutes, he was tired of his phone buzzing.

So he walked to the middle of University Avenue Monday afternoon and waved a “Stop Replying All” cardboard sign at the midday traffic.

“Never reply all, in any circumstances,” he said.

The email also included groups in Florida State University and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University as well, UF spokesperson Steve Orlando wrote in an email to The Alligator.

While having lunch in the Chick-fil-A on University Avenue, Steinfeldt and his friends had the idea to take a photo of him standing on the busy street holding the sign in reference to the email chain.

He posted the photo in Swampy UF memes for top ten public teens, a Facebook group for UF students dedicated to jokes about current events at UF and campus culture. The meme received more than 2,000 likes as of Monday afternoon.

Jessica De Leon, an assistant professor at Florida State University, said she thinks she received the email by accident because she has not worked at UF in at least 10 years. She said she was concerned it was phishing, a way for people to access private information through email.

The UF Information Technology department regularly checks to ensure faculty, student and staff automated email lists are up to date, Orlando wrote. This weekend, in that process, there was an error, which caused the group email about the UF Data Lake, or storage site for raw data, to go out to a “much broader audience” than intended, he wrote.

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The result was a stream of emails being sent back and forth after recipients chose to “reply all” when asking why they received the email. This feature sends the reply out to everyone who was copied on the initial email.

UFIT Communications Manager Tracy Gale was not able to provide an estimate of how many email accounts were affected by the UF Data Lake email in time for publication.

UF IT saw the emails and began removing extra names or groups who were included in the email blast, Orlando wrote. They have now stopped the replies to the original email, he added.

“UF Information Technology sends its apologies on behalf of the email volume many in the UF community received today,” he wrote.

Earlier in the day, UFIT provided an alert on its website that advised students to disregard emails related to the error.

Kelena Kelippel posted edited photos on Swampy Memes comparing those replying all to President Donald Trump’s recent interview with an Axios reporter. The joke received more than 1,500 likes as of Monday evening. The 22-year-old UF forensic medicine master’s student said it was interesting to see which people laughed at the email notifications or found it irritating

“I think it really shows like the character behind some people who replied rudely,” she said.

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