AOL Censors Email Tax Opponents

Won’t Deliver Emails Mentioning (

Proves Coalition Correct: AOL Cannot Be Trusted To Put The Free
and Open Internet Above Its Own Self-Interest

AOL is blocking delivery to AOL customers of all emails that include a link
to ( Today, after this was discovered, over 150
people who signed a petition to AOL tried sending messages to their
AOL-using friends, and received a bounceback message informing them that
their email “failed permanently.”

“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

While AOL may imply that censoring ( is part of
some anti-spam effort, their own customers are witnessing how faulty AOL’s
spam measures would be if that was the case. “I forwarded
( to my own AOL account and it was censored.
Apparently I can’t even tell myself about it,” said one AOL customer, Kelly
from Massachusetts.

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

“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.”

This is what a typical bounceback email from AOL says:

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Mail Delivery Subsystem (
Date: Apr 13, 2006 10:19 AM
Subject: Delivery Status Notification (Failure)
To: [sender’s email]

This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification

Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:

[intended recipients AOL email]

Technical details of permanent failure:
PERM_FAILURE: SMTP Error (state 12): 554-: (HVU:B1)

“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, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “AOL’s planned
CertifiedEmail system would let them profit from this power by offering to
charge legitimate mailers to bypass these malfunctioning filters.”

The Silicon Valley-based San Jose Mercury News recently warned that AOL’s
pay-to-send proposal “is likely to work as an incentive for AOL to move as
many senders as possible to the paid system…The temptation would be to
neglect the free e-mail system, whose reliability would decline.
Eventually, everyone would migrate to the fee-based system. There would be
no way around the AOL tollbooth.”

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, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press, the
AFL-CIO, Civic Action, Gun Owners of America, and others.

More information about the Coalition and a list of all
coalition members are located at (