Set up rules for objectionable content

As a G Suite administrator, you can set up rules to determine whether messages containing certain words, such as obscenities, are rejected, quarantined, or delivered with modifications.

For example, you can:

  • Reject outbound messages that might contain sensitive company information, such as when your outbound filter detects the word "confidential."
  • Quarantine a message that has an objectionable word.

  • Notify others when a message has an objectionable word.

You use the Objectionable content setting to create word lists for filtering for objectionable content, and to specify what action to perform for messages with this content.

How word matching works

Consider the following when you create a custom word list:

  • Capitalization is ignored. For example, "BAD" matches "bad", "Bad", and "BAD".
  • Only complete words are matched. For example, if you add "bad" to the custom word list, "badminton" is not matched.
  • Word searches are performed on subject, body, and text attachments.
  • Entering objectionable content inside square brackets, for example, [BAD], causes the rule to fail, even if the text in the message, including the brackets, matches the content.  

Note: If you need a rule to trigger for text enclosed in square brackets, create a content compliance rule to trigger on the regular expression (?i)\[(BAD)\].  

Compliance actions

When a message matches an objectionable content rule, you can:

  • Reject it
  • Quarantine it
  • Deliver it with modifications

How settings are applied

Unless modified in the Options section, the setting applies to all users in an organizational unit. Users in child organizations inherit the settings you create for the parent organization. Inherited settings can be disabled in child organizations, preventing the disabled setting from applying to the child organization, as well as it's grandchild organizations. You can also add multiple settings to each organization.

Note: Objectionable content filtering does not currently support localized text with non-ASCII characters.

Enhance message security with hosted S/MIME

You can enhance message security using advanced features for Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME). For example, you can set up a rule that requires the use of S/MIME encryption for outgoing messages. You set this up with the Encryption option, described in Step 3.

For an overview, see Enhance message security with hosted S/MIME.

This feature is only available with G Suite Enterprise and G Suite for Education.

Set up an objectionable content rule

Initial step: Go to Gmail advanced settings in the Google Admin console

  1. Sign in to your Google Admin console.

    Sign in using your administrator account (does not end in

  2. From the Admin console Home page, go to Appsand thenG Suiteand thenGmailand thenAdvanced settings.

    Tip: To see Advanced settings, scroll to the bottom of the Gmail page.

  3. Scroll to the Objectionable content setting in the Compliance section, hover over the setting, and click Configure. If the setting is already configured, hover over the setting and click Edit or Add another.
  4. For each new setting, enter a unique description.

Go to the next step to configure the setting.

Step 1: Enter email messages to affect

You can set up the rule for inbound, outbound, or internal messages. Internal messages are sent and received within the domains and subdomains associated with your organization.

  1. Check the boxes next to the messages you want the rule to apply to.

  2. Go to the next step to continue.

Step 2: Add words you want to search for in each message

You can use the Custom objectionable words list to create your own list of objectionable words.

To create a list of objectionable words:

  1. Click Edit and then Add.
  2. Enter the words, separated by spaces or commas.
  3. Click Save. You might need to scroll to see it.
  4. Go to the next step to continue.

Step 3: Specify what happens if the message contains objectionable words

  1. Specify whether to modify, reject, or quarantine a message when conditions are met. (Details below.)

  2. Configure the options for the action you choose.

  3. (Optional) Click Show options to configure additional options to limit the application of this setting. See Configure additional parameters, below, for details.

  4. Go to Save the configuration.

Note: A limit of 100 additional recipients applies for each rule. For this reason, consider using groups for large lists.

Reject message

Rejects the message before reaching the recipient. You can enter a message to notify the sender about why the message was rejected. For matching messages, no other routing or compliance rules are applied; the message is simply rejected. 

Note: Gmail automatically adds an SMTP rejection code, such as 550 5.7.1. This is a requirement of the SMTP standard and can't be deleted.

Quarantine message

Sends the message to an admin quarantine where you can review the message before deciding to send it or reject it. Available only for the Users account type. See Account types to affect below.

To notify your users when their sent messages are quarantined, check the Notify box. 

Modify message

You can modify messages by doing things like adding headers, removing attachments, changing the envelope recipient, adding more recipients (additional or secondary routes), and changing the route.

Note: We recommend that you use the routing settings for the specific use cases they are intended to support. For example, you can set up the same routing options by using an Objectionable content setting or a Routing setting. Use an Objectionable content setting for objectionable content, and a Routing setting for general routing-related use cases, such as dual delivery. Learn about mail routing, including use cases and examples.


Add X-Gm-Original-To header

Check this box to add a header tag if the recipient is changed. That way, the downstream server will know the original envelope recipient. An example of the header tag format is X-Gm-Original-To:

Headers are useful if you're rerouting a copy of the message to another recipient. In this case, you're changing the recipient address, but the new recipient can still see the address of the original envelope recipient. They can see the original envelope recipient by checking the X-Gm-Original-To header in the message.

Add X-Gm-Spam and X-GM-Phishy headers

Gmail messages are automatically filtered for spam and phishing. Check the Add X-Gm-Spam and X-Gm-Phishy headers box to add these headers to indicate the spam and phishing status of the message. For example, an administrator at a downstream server can use this information to set up rules that handle spam and phishing differently from clean mail.

  • X-Gm-Spam: 0 indicates the message isn't spam.
  • X-Gm-Spam: 1 indicates the message is spam.
  • X-Gm-Phishy: 0 indicates the message is not phishing.
  • X-Gm-Phishy: 1 indicates the message is phishing.

Any message marked phishy is automatically marked spam as well.

If you add X-Gm-Spam and X-Gm-Phishy headers to your messages, consider where the message is being routed to next. A rerouted message is often no longer classified as spam when it reaches its destination because elements of the message, such as the sending IP address, have changed.

If your messages are rerouted to your downstream server, set up rules on that server to read these headers and prevent messages with X-Gm-Spam: 1 or X-Gm-Phishy: 1 tags from being delivered to users’ inboxes.

If your messages are rerouted back to Google, create an Inbound gateway setting to mark tagged messages as spam, or a Content compliance setting to send them to the Admin Quarantine for review.

Note: If the Account types to affect is set to Groups, the X-Gm-Spam and X-Gm-Phishy header tag values are always set to 0. See Account types to affect, below, for information on the account types.

Add custom headers

You can add one or more custom headers to messages that are affected by this setting. For example, you can add a header that matches the description that you entered for the setting. Doing this can help you analyze why a message was routed in a certain way or why a rule was triggered.

Prepend custom subject

You can enter a string to prepend to the subject of applicable messages. The string will appear in brackets at the beginning of the subject. For example, you could enter Confidential in this field for sensitive emails. If a message triggers the rule and its subject is Monthly report, recipients will see the following subject: [Confidential] Monthly report.

Change route and Also reroute spam

  • Change route—Changes the destination of the message. By default, the Gmail server is the primary delivery location. However, you can change it to route messages to a different mail server, such as Microsoft® Exchange.

    Note: Before you can change the route, you need to add the route using the Hosts tab. After it's added, it'll appear in the Change route list.

  • Also reroute spam—Appears if you select Change route. Also reroute spam lets you route all email that matches the criteria of the setting, including messages marked as spam. 

    If you don't check the Also reroute spam box, then normal messages are rerouted, but spam messages aren't.


  • Whether or not you select Also reroute spam, blatant spam is not rerouted because it’s dropped instantly at delivery time.

  • If a message is classified as spam but one of the G Suite email settings overrides it (for example, due to a sender whitelist), then the message isn't considered to be spam for this purpose and it's routed as a normal message.

Change envelope recipient

You can change the envelope recipient in one of the following ways:

  • To replace the recipient’s entire email address, after Replace recipient, enter the full email address, such as

  • To replace just the username of the recipient's email address and keep the domain the same, before @existing-domain, enter the username, such as user.

  • To replace just the domain of the recipient's email address and keep the username the same, after existing-username@, enter the domain, such as

Changing the envelope recipient for a message on the primary address is equivalent to forwarding a message to a different recipient. The message bypasses the original recipient’s mailbox and is routed back to the internet for delivery to the new recipient. The To: address remains the original recipient address, even though the envelope recipient is replaced.

The destination server is determined by an MX lookup on the new recipient's domain. Or, if you’re using the Change route control, the destination server determined by the specified route.

If you'd rather Bcc an additional recipient, use the Add more recipients option, described below.

Bypass spam filter for this message

Check this box to deliver incoming messages to recipients even if the spam filter identifies them as spam. This option applies to incoming messages only—you can’t bypass spam filters for outgoing messages.

Note: This option applies to the Users and Unrecognized / Catch-all account types, and not the Groups account type. See Account types to affect, below, for information on the account types.

Remove attachments from message

Check this box to remove any attachments from messages. Optionally, you can append text to notify recipients that attachments were removed.

Add more recipients

  1. Check the Add more recipients box and then click Add to set up dual delivery or multiple delivery.

  2. Select Basic from the list to add individual email addresses and then click Save. Click Add to add more addresses.

  3. Select Advanced from the list to choose advanced options for your secondary delivery. Similar to the settings for primary delivery, you can change the envelope recipient, add headers, prepend a custom subject, and remove attachments for secondary deliveries.


  • A limit of 100 additional recipients applies for each rule. For this reason, consider using groups for large lists.

  • Any settings that you configure for the primary delivery also affect the secondary deliveries. For example, if you change the envelope recipient, prepend a custom subject, and add custom headers to the primary delivery, the same configuration is applied to the secondary deliveries. If you change the envelope recipient, the To: address still remains the original recipient address.

  • For secondary deliveries, the Do not deliver spam to this recipient and Suppress bounces from this recipient boxes are checked by default. If the message is spam, this option discards the copy of the message being sent to the additional recipient. Suppress bounces from this recipient prevents bounces from going back to the original sender.

Encryption (onward delivery only)

By default, Gmail always attempts to deliver messages using secure transport (TLS). If secure transport isn’t available, the message is delivered over a nonsecure connection.

Check the Require secure transport (TLS) box to include secure delivery as part of content compliance for outbound messages. This requires all messages meeting the conditions in the setting (such as match expressions, account types, and envelope filters) to be transmitted via a secure connection. If TLS isn't available on the sending or receiving side, the message won't be sent.

Check the Encrypt message if not encrypted (S/MIME) box to make sure that certain messages can’t be sent unless they are S/MIME encrypted. See note below.

Also check the Bounce message if unable to encrypt box to bounce messages that aren’t S/MIME encrypted.

Learn more about enhancing message security with hosted S/MIME.

Note:  This feature is only available with G Suite Enterprise and G Suite for Education.

Configure additional parameters (Optional)

Click Show options to configure additional options for this setting.

Address lists

You can specify address lists as a criteria for whether to bypass or apply a given objectionable content rule. These lists can contain email addresses, domains, or both.

To determine if the address list is matched, G Suite considers the "from" sender for received mail and the recipients for sent mail. For senders, the authentication requirement is also checked. (Details below.) If multiple lists are specified, the address must match at least one of the lists.

The options for whether to bypass or apply a given objectionable content rule are:

  • Bypass this setting for specific addresses / domains—Skips the setting entirely if the address list matches, regardless of any other criteria specified in the setting.
  • Only apply this setting for specific addresses / domains—The address list match becomes a condition for whether the setting is applied. If there are other criteria in the setting, such as match expressions, account types, or envelope filters, those conditions must also match for the setting to be applied.

To create an address list:

  1. In the Options section, check the Use address lists to bypass or control application of this setting box.

  2. Select one of the options:

    • Bypass this setting for specific addresses / domains

    • Only apply this setting for specific addresses / domains

  3. Click Use existing or create a new one.

  4. Select the name of an existing list, or enter a custom name for a new list in the Create new list field, and then click Create.

  5. Hover over the list name, and click Edit.

  6. To add email addresses or domains to the list, click Add.

  7. Enter a full email address or domain name, such as Or, to add a list in bulk, enter a comma or space delimited list of addresses after clicking add.

    Note: Check the Do not require sender authentication box to bypass the Content compliance setting for approved senders that do not have authentication, such as SPF or DKIM, enabled. Use this option with caution as it can potentially lead to spoofing.

  8. Click Save.

  9. To include additional email addresses or domains in the list, repeat steps 5 to 7.

  10. When you're done, go to Account types to affect.

Account types to affect (Required)

Select one or more account types that the setting applies to. The account types are Users, Groups, and Unrecognized/Catch-all. You must select an account type before you can save the setting. 

If you’re configuring the setting for the top-level organization and you select the Modify message or Reject message action, all three account types are available. If the action is Quarantine message, just the Users account type is available.

If you’re configuring a sub-level organization, the only available account type is Users.

The Groups account type doesn't apply to the Add X-Gm-Spam and X-Gm-Phishy headers control. If the account type is Groups, the headers are always X-Gm-Spam: 0 and X-Gm-Phishy: 0. The Groups account type also doesn't apply to the Bypass spam filter for this message control.

By default, Users is selected, but you can select more than one type. For example, you can configure an inbound setting that only applies to the Groups account type, and the group must be the recipient. If you’re configuring an outbound setting, the account type must match the sender.

When you're finished:

  1. (Optional) Specify an envelope filter.

  2. Go to Save the configuration.

Envelope filter

You can choose to affect only specific envelope senders and recipients. You can specify a single recipient, a number of users using a regular expression, or email groups.

To set up an envelope filter, check the Only affect specific envelope senders box, the Only affect specific envelope recipients box, or both. Then, from the list, select an option:

  • Single email address—Specify a single user by entering one email address. It needs to be the complete email address and include @ and the domain name. The match is case insensitive.

  • Pattern match—Enter a regular expression to specify a set of senders or recipients in your domain. Click Test expression to make sure your syntax is correct. For example, you can ensure this setting applies only to 3 specific users by entering the list of users using the following regular expression syntax:


  • In the expression:

    • ^ matches the start of a new line.
    • (?i) makes the expression case insensitive.
    • $ matches the end of a line.

    Learn about using regular expressions.

  • Group membership—Select one or more groups in the list. For envelope senders, this option only applies to sent mail. For envelope recipients, it only applies to received mail. If you haven't, you'll need to create the group first.

When you're finished, go to Save the configuration.

Save the configuration

Final step: Add and save the setting

  1. Click Add setting or Save. Any new settings are added to the Gmail Advanced settings page.

  2. At the bottom, click Save.

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