TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Stop AOL's Email Scheme

Stop AOL's Email Scheme

Patrick Townson (
Wed, 22 Feb 2006 17:51:08 -0600

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Below is a message I recieved from the people passing along some suggestions on the new
plan by AOL to begin charging 'postage' of _large_ commercial emailers.
Mr. Pariser disapproves of the plan. Please read his response to the
plan by AOL, and then after his response, I will make some comments of
my own. I do _NOT_ agree with Mr. Pariser's interpretation of what is
happening, nor do I agree with his conclusions. PAT]

----- Original Message -----
From: Eli Pariser, Civic Action
To: ptownson
Sent: Wednesday, February 22, 2006 1:29 PM
Subject: Stop AOL's email scheme

AOL is threatening the Internet as we know it.

They want to charge an "email tax" for sending email. Those who don't
pay would risk their emails not being delivered.

Can you help change AOL's mind by signing this emergency petition?

Dear MoveOn member,

The very existence of online civic participation and the free Internet
as we know it are under attack by America Online.

AOL recently announced what amounts to an "email tax." Under this
pay-to-send system, large emailers willing to pay an "email tax" can
bypass spam filters and get guaranteed access to people's inboxes -- with
their messages having a preferential high-priority designation.

Charities, small businesses, civic organizing groups, and even
families with mailing lists will inevitably be left with inferior
Internet service unless they are willing to pay the "email tax" to
AOL. We need to stop AOL immediately so other email hosts know that
following AOL's lead would be a mistake.

Can you sign this emergency petition to America Online and forward it
to your friends?

Sign here:

Petition statement: "AOL, don't auction off preferential access to
people's inboxes to giant emailers, while leaving people's friends,
families, and favorite causes wondering if their emails are being
delivered at all. The In ternet is a force for democracy and economic
innovation only because it is open to all Internet users equally-we
must not let it become an unlevel playing field."

Sign here:

AOL is one of the biggest email hosts in the world -- if we stop them
from unleashing this threat to the Internet, others will know not to
try it. Everyo ne who signs this petition will be sent information on
how to contact AOL directly, as well as future steps that can be
taken until AOL drops its new "email tax" policy.

AOL's proposed pay-to-send system is the first step down the slippery
slope toward dividing the Internet into two classes of users -- those
who get preferential treatment and those who are left behind.

AOL pretends nothing would change for senders who don't pay, but
that's not reality. The moment AOL switches to a world where giant
emailers pay for preferential treatment, AOL faces this internal
choice: spend money to keep spam filters up-to-date so legitimate
email isn't identified as spam, or ma ke money by neglecting their
spam filters and pushing more senders to pay f or guaranteed
delivery. Which do you think they'll choose

If AOL has its way, the big loser will be regular email users-whose
email from friends, family, and favorite causes will increasingly go
undelivered a nd disappear into the black hole of a neglected spam
filter. Another loser will be democracy and economic innovation on the
Internet-where small ideas become big ideas specifically because
regular people can spread ideas freely on a level playing field.

If an "email tax" existed when MoveOn began, we never would have
gotten off the ground-indeed, AOL's proposal will hurt every
membership group, regard less of political affiliation. That's why
groups all across the political s pectrum are joining together with
charities, non-profits, small businesses, labor unions, and Internet
watchdog groups in opposition to AOL's "email tax."

The president of the Association for Cancer Online Resources (ACOR) points
out the real-world urgency of this issue:

In essence, this is going to block every AOL subscriber suffering from
any form of cancer from receiving potentially life-saving information
they may not be able to get from any other source, simply because a
non-profit like ACOR-which serves more than 55,000 cancer patients
and caregivers every day-cannot afford to pay the fee.

Can you sign this emergency petition to America Online and forward it
to your friends?

Thank you for all you do.

-Eli Pariser, Noah T. Winer, Adam Green, and the Civic Action team
Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

P.S. The Electronic Frontier Foundation summed up the "email tax"
issue beautifully:

Email being basically free isn't a bug. It's a feature that has driven
the digital revolution. It allows groups to scale up from a dozen
friends to a hundred people who love knitting to half-a-million
concerned citizens wit hout a major bankroll ...

Once a pay-to-speak system like this gets going, it will be increasing
di fficult for people who don't pay to get their mail through. The
system has no way to distinguish between ordinary mail and bulk mail,
spam and non-spam, personal and commercial mail. It just gives
preference to people who pay.


1. "Postage is due for companies sending e-mail," New York Times,
February 4, 2006

2. "AOL's New Email Certification Program: Good Mail or Goodfellas"
L-Soft Release, February 2, 2006

3. "AOL, Yahoo and Goodmail: Taxing Your Email for Fun and Profit,"
Electronic Frontier Foundation, February 8, 2006

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I was happy to run this message from
Mr. Pariser, even though I am in almost total disagreement with
it. Eli should note that if it were not for the huge amount of spam
and other abuse email otherwise receives over the years, all this
would be just a moot point anyway. Pariser claims the 'death of the
internet' (where have we heard that expression before?) will happen
when AOL starts imposing its 'email tax' on those who will pay. No one
would have to pay anything if more agressive tactics were used against
spammers. But, alas, that is not to be, since the spam-enablers (those
users who are forever modifying their filters to dodge [usually
unsuccessfully] the amount of garbage on the net) will not tolerate
any method of handling the 'problem' except their own, mostly
disproven one.

Eli continues by noting that "if the email tax had been in effect when
move-on got started, they would have never been able to do their
thing." If I am correct, move-on got started as a result of a dispute
over some actions (or antics, depends on your persuasion I guess) by
President Clinton, now about a decade ago. Well, Eli, I have been
around with _my_ mailing list -- my pulpit if you will -- a little
over twice as long as yours, 25 years this summer. And yes, Eli, it
would have been hard for TELECOM Digest in those days also, but it is
an invalid comparison since in those times, just as in the middle
1990's when you started, we did not have spam. Not in the 1980's or
early/middle 1990's at least we did not, and we certainly did not have
spam-enablers, at least not until the middle-late 1990's. Then Eli
decides to do the obligatory get-personal routine, talking about the
'poor cancer sufferers and patients' will not be able to get the help
they need because the organization handing out the information on
cancer won't be able to afford to send it either. How do you know,
Eli? Have you audited their books or inquired in other than a general
way? And anyway, _how_ do they get their information now, after wading
through the tons of spam which show up in their inboxes every day? You
say they use white/black listing to insure that at least some of
their good mail gets through? Who ever at AOL ever said any of that
would change? When the mail at AOL hits your inbox (regardless of
how it gets through the AOL-operated filters [paid and 'valid' spam
or unpaid spam]) individual users will still have the ultimate control
over their own inbox. Individual users will still operate their white/
black lists, their Spam Assassins, etc and sort the mail as they wish.

All the so-called 'email tax' as you like to call it will do is
transfer a bit of the suffering and hardship over to the spammers;
they'll have to start making a token (perhaps) payment for the mess
they are causing on the net. Actually, Eli, if you want to send
petitions of complaint around, those petitions should be against the
spam-enablers, the spam-apologists who keep insisting (as they wring
their hands) that there is nothing which can be done about spam. Your
damn straight there can be actions taken against spammers, most of
whom are too damn dumb to know any better anyway.

I put your petition and links here for anyone who wishes to sign it,
since that is the way which I believe is fair, but I wish you would
have directed your efforts at real, true worthwhile vendettas against
the spammers. By the way, anyone who really and truely still believes
filters work successfully, please note: AOL has gone that route; tried
it for more than a year; are zapping a million (?) pieces of mail each
day, and _still getting no where_. PAT]

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