Skip to main content

EFFector - Volume 19, Issue 14 - AOL Censors Email Tax Opponents


EFFector - Volume 19, Issue 14 - AOL Censors Email Tax Opponents

EFFector       Vol. 19, No. 14       April 14, 2006

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424

In the 375th Issue of EFFector:

AOL Censors Email Tax Opponents

Blocked Delivery Emails Mentioning

San Francisco - This week, AOL blocked delivery to AOL customers of all emails that include a link to Over 100 people who signed a petition to AOL tried sending messages to their AOL-using friends, and received a bounce-back message informing them that their email "failed permanently."

"The fact is, ISPs like AOL commonly make these kinds of arbitrary decisions every day - silently banning huge swathes of legitimate mail on the flimsiest of reasons - and no one hears about it," said Danny O'Brien, Activism Coordinator of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). "AOL's planned CertifiedEmail system would let it profit from this power by offering to charge legitimate mailers to bypass these malfunctioning filters."

After the original version of this press release was sent out Thursday afternoon, AOL stopped blocking email with links to This incident only increases our worry about organizations that don't have the ability to seek instant press attention. The next time AOL's anti-spam filters fail for a small organization - or one without political muscle - will they move so quickly to fix them? Or will they push organizations to just sign up with Goodmail and pay to avoid the problem?

When reports of undelivered email started rolling in to the Coalition, MoveOn co-founder Wes Boyd decided to see for himself if it was true.

"I tried to email my brother-in-law about, and AOL sent me a response as if he had disappeared," said Boyd. "But when I sent him an email without the link, it went right through."

While AOL may imply that censoring is part of some anti-spam effort, its own customers are witnessing how faulty AOL's spam measures would be if that were the case.

"I forwarded to my own AOL account and it was censored. Apparently I can't even tell myself about it," said Kelly Tessitore from Framingham, Massachusetts.

"This proves the Coalition's point entirely: left to their own devices, AOL will always put its own self- interest ahead of the public interest in a free and open Internet," said Timothy Karr, campaign director of Free Press, a national, nonpartisan organization working on media reform and Internet policy issues. "AOL wants us to believe they won't hurt free email when their pay-to-send system is up and running. But if AOL is willing to censor the flow of information now to silence their critics, how could anyone trust that they will preserve the free and open Internet down the road? Their days of saying 'trust us' are over - their credibility is zero, zip, nada."

The Coalition represents over 15 million people combined - and has grown from 50 member organizations to 600 in a month. Since the beginning of the campaign, more than 350,000 Internet users have signed letters to AOL opposing its pay to send proposal. Coalition members include craigslist founder Craig Newmark, the Association of Cancer Online Resources, EFF, Free Press, the AFL-CIO, Civic Action, Gun Owners of America, and others.

For more on the issues surrounding pay-to-send email, join EFF for a debate on April 20 in San Francisco. EFF's O'Brien and tech expert Esther Dyson will face off over the question "Email -- Should the Sender Pay?" Entrepreneur and EFF cofounder Mitch Kapor will moderate.

More information about the Coalition:

More information on next week's debate:

For the initial press release:

You're Invited! "Email -- Should the Sender Pay?": EFF Fundraiser, Debate Between Esther Dyson and Danny O'Brien

In light of AOL's adopting a "certified" email system, EFF is hosting a debate on the future of email. With distinguished entrepreneur Mitch Kapor moderating, EFF Activist Coordinator Danny O'Brien and renowned tech expert Esther Dyson will discuss the potential consequences if people have to pay to send email. Would the Internet deteriorate as a platform for free speech? Would spam or phishing decline?

WHEN: Thursday, April 20th, 2006
7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.


"Email - Should the Sender Pay?"


Danny O'Brien

Danny O'Brien is the Activist Coordinator for the EFF. His job is to help our membership in making their voice heard: in government and regulatory circles, in the marketplace, and with the wider public. Danny has documented and fought for digital rights in the UK for over a decade, where he also assisted in building tools of open democracy like Fax Your MP. He co-edits the award-winning NTK newsletter, has written and presented science and travel shows for the BBC, and has performed a solo show about the Net in the London's West End.

Esther Dyson

Esther Dyson is editor of Release 1.0, CNET's quarterly technology-industry newsletter, and host of its PC Forum, the high-tech market's leading annual executive conference. She sold her business, EDventure Holdings, to CNET Networks in early 2004. Previously, she had co-owned EDventure and written/edited Release 1.0 since 1983. She was also an early board member of EFF and was our chairman from July 1995 to January 1998, and was founding chairman of ICANN (1998-2000). The author of the book "Release 2.0: A design for living in the digital age," which suggested a sender- pays model for e-mail in 1997, Dyson also recently wrote a New York Times op-ed called "You've Got Goodmail," supporting a voluntary recipient-charges/sender-pays model for email.

Mitch Kapor

Mitchell Kapor is the President and Chair of the Open Source Applications Foundation, a non-profit organization he founded in 2001 to promote the development and acceptance of high-quality application software developed and distributed using open source methods and licenses. He is widely known as the founder of Lotus Development Corporation and the designer of Lotus 1-2-3, the "killer application" that made the personal computer ubiquitous in the business world in the 1980's. In 1990, Kapor co-founded EFF. Mitch will moderate the debate.

WHERE: Roxie Film Center
3117 16th Street, San Francisco
(between Valencia and Guerrero)
Tel: (415) 863-1087

See the link below for a map:

Local Muni are the 22 and 53 (both at 16th & Valencia), 33 (18th & Valencia), 14 (16th & Mission), 49 (16th & Mission). BART stops one block east at 16th & Mission.

Public Parking is available on Hoff Street, off of 16th between Valencia and Mission at very reasonable rates.

This fundraiser is open to the general public. The suggested donation is $20. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Please RSVP to

Adaptive Path is the generous sponsor of this fundraising event. Founded in 2001, Adaptive Path is a leading user experience consulting, research, and training firm that has provided services to a range of clients, including Fortune 100 corporations, pure-Web startups, and established nonprofit organizations. The company is headquartered in San Francisco. To learn more about Adaptive Path, visit the company website at:

To learn more about the DearAOL campaign against AOL's planned sender-pay system:

For Esther Dyson's editorial, "You've Got Goodmail":

Digital Copyright Law Hurts Consumers, Scientists, and Competition

EFF Report Highlights More Unintended Consequences in Seven Years of DMCA

San Francisco - In the seven years since Congress enacted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), examples of the law's impact on legitimate consumers, scientists, and competitors continue to mount. A new report released this week from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), "Unintended Consequences: Seven Years Under the DMCA," collects reports of the misuses of the DMCA -- chilling free expression and scientific research, jeopardizing fair use, impeding competition and innovation, and interfering with other laws on the books. The report updates a previous version issued by EFF in 2003.

The report tells the story of the delay of the disclosure of the Sony BMG "rootkit" vulnerabilities on millions of music CDs. The dangerous software flaws were initially discovered by Princeton graduate student J. Alex Halderman. But Halderman delayed sounding the alarm about the security problems for several weeks so he could consult with lawyers about potential violations of the DMCA. The report also details the DMCA's role in impeding RealNetworks from selling digital music to Apple iPod owners, along with other unintended consequences from the DMCA.

"Rather than being used to stop 'piracy,' the DMCA has predominantly been used to threaten and sue legitimate consumers, scientists, publishers, and competitors," said EFF senior staff attorney Fred von Lohmann. "This law is not being used as Congress intended, and a review of the past seven years makes it clear that reform is needed."

For "Unintended Consequences: Seven Years Under the DMCA":

For more on EFF and the DMCA:

For this release:

E-Voting Lobby Days a Resounding Success

Last week, hundreds of citizen lobbyists joined leading election integrity advocates in Washington, DC, to show their support for safe and auditable elections. The "I Count" Coalition," which includes EFF, Common Cause, Verified Voting, Voters Unite, VoteTrustUSA, and Working Assets, led the lobbying effort in support of HR 550 -- the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act. This bill would ensure a voter-verified paper record of every vote, establish mandatory random hand-counted audits, and prohibit the use of secret software and wireless communications in voting machines.

The Lobby Days event was a resounding success. New endorsements came from Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL), Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Rep. Tim Holden (D-PA), Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA), Rep. Steven Lynch (D-MA), Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY), Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA). The number of co-sponsors of the House bill now stands at 178. The bill needs 218 cosponsors to go before the full House and out of committee where it has been held up since its introduction.

"These new bipartisan co-sponsors demonstrate that the issue of transparent elections doesn't belong solely to Democrats or Republicans," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Making election technology work in an open and verifiable way is a goal we should all share. It's refreshing to see that message continues to gain momentum."

HR 550 "I Count" Coalition:

EFF's Lobby Days Blog:

To tell your Representative to support HR 550:

EFF Defends American's Free Speech Against Foreign Court Ruling

Your online speech may be perfectly legal under our laws, but when can a US court be made to enforce a foreign law against you? Can the First Amendment be undermined by court decisions from nations that are less protective of free speech? That's the issue addressed in an amicus brief filed by EFF on Monday, arguing that the First Amendment blocks two French fashion design companies from enforcing a French court judgment in the U.S.

In this case, Sarl Louis Feraud International v. Viewfinder Inc., the French companies had won a default judgment in France against Viewfinder Inc., an American company that maintains websites of photographs from fashion shows. The French designers claim that Viewfinder's posted photographs infringed rights in their dresses. The companies then tried to enforce the judgment in New York federal court, which rightly found that the French court judgment was "repugnant" to U.S. law and public policy because it would stifle Viewfinder's speech. Just because your online speech may be read in another country doesn't mean that country's law should bind you. Joined by ACLU and CDT, EFF supported the district court's decision and this week filed its brief opposing the French companies' appeal to the Second Circuit. Former EFF staff attorney Wendy Seltzer, now teaching at Brooklyn Law School, was counsel to EFF, ACLU and CDT on the brief.

For the brief:

Get Secure, Encrypted Webmail and Support EFF

MailSaurus is an open source webmail system that helps you protect your privacy. Using end-to-end data encryption, MailSaurus ensures that nobody -- not even the system administrator -- can read your e-mail in storage or in transit. Also, MailSaurus' unique "Secure Registered E- mail" feature allows you to send encrypted e-mails to any recipient in the world without exchanging keys or using any special software. You can download the MailSaurus software and run your own secure mail server for free, or sign up for MailSaurus' email service.

MailSaurus has graciously pledged to donate 20% of service fees from EFF members who sign up for its pay service. Also, 5% of all donations to the project at the SourceForge website will be given to the EFF.

To learn more about MailSaurus and sign up:

To download the MailSaurus' software:

Support EFF at the Maker Faire Dunk Tank!

If you're going to O'Reilly's Maker Faire on April 22-23 in San Mateo, California, be sure to pop by the Dunk The Makers stand. Maker Bruce Gee has constructed a fine DIY dunk tank, and you'll get an opportunity to see the great and the good of hardware hacking doused for the benefit of cleanliness, godliness -- and $20 to the EFF per bucket.

If you'd like to volunteer for victimhood (or are bringing an unsuspecting friend who you'll volunteer by proxy), send mail to marked "H2O" with names. Ponchos and warm towels will be available.

EFF will also have a booth at the Faire on April 22. Come by and grab some EFF swag -- we look forward to seeing you!

Maker Faire:


miniLinks features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.

2006 Underhanded C Contest
The competition for sneaky code writing is back, and this year it's all about the "plausible deniability."

Does OK Spyware Bill Give Carte Blanche to EULAs?
An Oklahoma bill would enshrine in law software's ability to root through your hard drive if you click the "Agree" button.

Wiretapping on the Increase in Europe
It's not just for the NSA.

Some Worries as San Francisco Goes Wireless
New York Times points to EFF's concerns with Google's pan- Francisco Wi-Fi.

Remote Storage DVRs Pose "Gigantic Copyright Issues"
TV industry freaks at CableVision's attempts to centralize time-shifting video.

Chinese Food for Thought
The Center for Democracy and Technology's resources on tech companies in China.

Ex-MPAA Anti-Piracy Enforcer Joins MySpace as "Chief Security Officer"
Hemanshu Nigam will be protecting the children for News Corp.

Grover Norquist Seeks Trademark on "K Street Project" Name
Worries that the lobbying brand may be tarnished in Washington.

Another Think Tank Turns Against the DMCA
The Competitive Enterprise Institute says big rights holders shouldn't be subsidized by the state.,04454.cfm

Mark Mulligan: Who's Got The BPI's Missing 0.81 Billion?
Jupiter Research skewers the British Phonographic Industry's piracy figures.

Staff Calendar

For a complete listing of EFF speaking engagements (with locations and times), please visit the full calendar:

April 20 -
EFF Fundraiser, "Email -- Should the Sender Pay?", Debate Between Esther Dyson and Danny O'Brien, San Francisco, CA.

April 21-23 -
Derek Slater speaking at National Summit, Swarthmore College, PA.

April 22 -
EFF at the Maker Faire, San Mateo, CA.

April 23 -
Ren Bucholz speaking at Flash in the Can, Toronto, Canada.


EFFector is published by:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation
454 Shotwell Street
San Francisco CA 94110-1914 USA
+1 415 436 9333 (voice)
+1 415 436 9993 (fax)

Derek Slater, Activist

General EFF, legal, policy, or online resources queries:

Reproduction of this publication in electronic media is encouraged. Signed articles do not necessarily represent theviews of EFF. To reproduce signed articles individually, please contact the authors for their express permission. Press releases and EFF announcements & articles may be reproduced individually at will.

Current and back issues of EFFector are available via the Web at:

Click here to unsubscribe or change your subscription preferences:

Click here to change your email address:

This newsletter is printed on 100% recycled electrons.

Back to top

JavaScript license information