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According to this source, Gmail uses a special implementation of IMAP. In this implementation, Gmail labels become Thunderbird folders. When you apply a label to a message in Gmail, Thunderbird creates a folder with the same name as the label and stores the message in that folder. Similarly, if you move a message to a folder in Thunderbird, Gmail will create ...


You can also tell gmail itself to not present the relevant folders to the IMAP user (thunderbird) at all. To do this, go to Gmail > Settings > Labels, find the relevant labels, and untick "Show in IMAP".

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