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On iPhone Messages, SMS text messages come through from political groups and all kinds of other nonsense. These are not phone numbers I interact with. Some of them are short codes?

Why don't they all go to the "Unknown Senders" tab, since I have that setting turned on?

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From Apple documentation:

You can filter iMessages from people who aren't saved in your Contacts.

There is difference between iMessages and SMS/MMS. You can read about it in Apple documentation: About iMessage and SMS/MMS

Based on that it is relatively safe to assume that if you have SMS (text in green bubbles) then filtering doesn't apply.

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