AOL Censors Email Tax Opponents
Won’t Deliver Emails Mentioning www.DearAOL.com
UPDATE After this press release was sent out Thursday afternoon, AOL stopped blocking email with links to www.DearAOL.com. Officials at the company stated that problems of this nature generally take three to five working days to fix. However, this was fixed after 24 hours of undeliverability - and approximately twenty minutes after this press release was widely distributed. This incident only increases our worry about organizations who 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?
San Francisco - AOL is blocking delivery to AOL customers of all emails that include a link to www.DearAOL.com. Today, 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 – silently banning huge swathes of legitimate mail on the flimsiest of reasons – every day, 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 them profit from this power by offering to charge legitimate mailers to bypass these malfunctioning filters."
After reports of undelivered email started rolling in to the DearAOL.com Coalition, MoveOn co-founder Wes Boyd decided to see for himself if it was true.
"I tried to email my brother-in-law about DearAOL.com and AOL sent me a response as if he had disappeared," said Boyd. "But when I sent him an email without the DearAOL.com link, it went right through."
While AOL may imply that censoring www.DearAOL.com is part of some anti-spam effort, their own customers are witnessing how faulty AOL's spam measures would be if that were the case.
"I forwarded www.DearAOL.com 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 DearAOL.com 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 DearAOL.com Coalition represents over 15 million people combined – and has grown from 50 member organizations to 600 in a month. Since the beginning of the DearAOL.com 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, MoveOn.org 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 Mitch Kapor will moderate.
More information about the DearAOL.com Coalition:
More information on next week's debate:
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation