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CHRISTIAN MEDIA NETWORK
AOL Censors & Suppresses All CMN Websites & Email
April 14th 2004 Update
(See Main Story Below The Update On How AOL has
intentionally blocked all Christian Media internet activity on their
servers -- and then lied about it when exposed)
America Online on Wednesday apparently began blocking e-mail on its servers containing the Web address of a petition against the company's upcoming certified-mail program, an issue the company called a "glitch."
The Internet service provider, which has roughly 20 million subscribers in the United States, began bouncing e-mail communications with the URL "Dearaol.com" sometime late Wednesday and continuing through Thursday.
A e-mail sent by CNET News.com to an AOL.com address and containing the URL "www.dearaol.com" bounced back on Thursday afternoon with a system administrator note that read: "The e-mail system was unable to deliver the message, but did not report a specific reason."
AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said late Thursday that AOL e-mails mentioning Dearaol.com would now be delivered as normal. The issue, he said, arose late Wednesday because of a software glitch that "affected dozens of Web links in messages," including the Dearaol.com.
"We discovered the issue early this morning, and our postmaster and mail operations team started working to identify this software glitch," he said.
Dearaol.com is a coalition of companies and individuals against AOL's adoption of GoodMail's CertifiedEmail, an antispam program that requires marketers to pay to ensure delivery of their e-mail messages and circumvent spam filters. The Web site contains an open letter and a petition that calls on people to protest what it calls an "e-mail tax" that would inhibit the Internet's inherent free flow of information and create a two-tiered system.
The e-mail tax, which could amount to a penny per e-mail sent, would essentially line AOL's pockets for ensuring delivery for affluent mass mailers, while leaving others with unreliable service in ineffective spam-filtering systems, according to the site. Nearly 600 organizations and 350,000 individuals have signed the petition so far.
Despite its quick fix, the hiccup adds fuel to a long-running controversy around GoodMail's certified-mail program and various ISPs adoption of it. Earlier this year, AOL and Yahoo said they would implement the e-mail postage program because with the rise of phishing scams and spam, they needed a way to tell legitimate marketing messages, like those advertising a sale at Jcrew.com, from junk. But their endorsement of GoodMail's system immediately spurred outcry from groups like MoveOn.org, the AFL-CIO, Gun Owners of America and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which formed the coalition Dearaol.com.
In March, AOL extended a peace offering by announcing a plan to pick up the costs for nonprofit groups that wish to send e-mails to AOL members.
AOL was expected to adopt the GoodMail system last week, but that move was delayed for unknown reasons, according to MoveOn co-founder Wes Boyd, whose group and the Electronic Frontier Foundation started the petition.
"AOL is essentially scanning e-mail for anything that's opposing their policy," Boyd said in a phone interview.
The group says it also believes the alleged blocking cements the view that an e-mail tax will harm free speech on the Internet.
"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."
Graham said that AOL has yet to implement the GoodMail system, but plans to do so imminently. When it does adopt the certified mail program, AOL will continue to operate its white lists, or lists of accepted e-mail senders, he said. In addition, the company plans to start a registration system for nonprofits and other groups wishing to send e-mail to subscribers so that they would avoid spam filters.
Internet giant and Time-Warner (CNN, Warner Brothers Films, Time Magazine, etc) subsidiary AOL (America Online) has aggressively sought to censor all Internet communications related to the Christian Media ministry. The largest net provider in America, the organization has gone so far as to block all email attachments with any Christian Media website names in the body of the text.
Incredibly, CM has determined that AOL subscribers that have emailed friends or family and attached articles written by James Lloyd that include the website URLs have been rejected by AOL's servers. Christian Media is not alone in this blacklist effort as we have located other organizations that have been the object of AOL's (and their CompuServe subsidiary known as cs.com) censorship efforts.
In one high profile example, Christian Media Network affiliate WRMI found that important emails to the national Shortwave station from the network were refused by WRMI's net portal cs.com. When WRMI's owner Jeff White queried the support staff at cs.com, a technical representative brazenly lied and stated that the problem was with White's browser settings. On January 16, 2004, that representative, a person identified as Jack C, a "Customer Care Consultant," emailed Mr. White and stated
"I understand that you have a concern about not receiving e-mail from the firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail address on your CompuServe v7.0 account. Please be assured CompuServe does not block email addresses to prevent you from receiving mail."
This is a blatant lie that is exposed with the actual statement from the AOL server when it `bounces' emails it does not approve of. For instance, on 1/13/04, the AOL server bounced specific emails with a message that reads
"The information presently available to AOL indicates this server is generating high volumes of member complaints from AOL's member base. Based on AOL's Unsolicited Bulk E-mail policy at http://www.aol.com/info/bulkemail.html AOL may not accept further e-mail transactions from this server or domain."
This statement says in plain English that AOL will "not accept further e-mail transaction from this server or domain" -- in short, they have placed commands in their system to block all emails associated with anyone they choose; yet the representative with the AOL subsidiary brazenly lied and claimed their firm "does not block email!"
International Shortwave Radio station WRMI (Radio Miami International) found that once the blocking of email started with Christian Media correspondence, they also were missing other key emails. For example, on January 19th of this year WRMI owner Jeff White also found he was missing emails from a European contact. White again emailed his AOL/CompuServe support office and said
"For the second time in two weeks, I have been informed by people with whom I correspond regularly that their e-mail messages to my address are being blocked. (See message below.) Apparently CompuServe and AOL are blocking all messages from these people to all CS and AOL customers. I would like to know why this is happening without my permission or request."
The commercial organization in Europe that was being blocked by AOL as he tried to get an email to his American contact managed to get a message past the AOL censor through another service provider. He wrote to Mr. White saying
"Our systems administrator just told me that we are unable to send e-mails to .AOL and .CS addresses. That is why you did not get my messages. (Unfortunately, I did not receive any error messages.) This week he is going to switch me over to a new e-mail systeme which will allow me to send messages to any address."
While logic would dictate that these are isolated incidents in that one might presume that AOL wants to continue in the Internet business and such tactics are simply bad for business, it is undeniable that AOL is extremely heavy handed in their blocking efforts. Indeed, the entire Internet is struggling with the burgeoning "spam" problem, and these crude censorship efforts appear to capitalize on the collective distaste for "spam."
For those that are not familiar with the Internet lingo, the term "spam" is a broadly used term that general refers to commercial emails that are unwanted. The Internet is presently being inundated with email ads for everything from sexual aids to home mortgages and electric shavers, and the process of deleting these unwanted solicitations has become time consuming and expensive. It is only recently that the federal government has entered the arena with legislation dealing with Spam.
However, the fact that one malcontent with an agenda is able to trigger a blacklisting that can affect literally thousands of users does not commend any organization's commercial decision making processes. For example, Christian Media recently clashed with a website owner on theological grounds and, in the process, our spiritual opponent accused us of being terrorists.
In this case, the woman in question operates a Bible prophecy website. Her website is devoted to the pre-tribulation rapture fantasy. On that site, she wrote an essay making numerous false statements using scriptures out of context, and she included her email addresss.
We sent her an essay that cited scripture that refuted her statements. Her response was not to engage in a scriptural discourse, or even request that we cease any correspondence. Instead, she filed complaints with numerous regulatory authorities, including the FBI, and told them them that we were terrorists! This AOL sustained website owner went even further. She sent complaints to the various Internet providers that serve one of our websites and demanded CMN be kicked off the Internet for "spam!"
We know of at least one other party that had a similar encounter, and he lost his Internet access for a similar complaint -- all for writing a letter to a person with a public website, an Internet address, and putting forth an opinion.
CMN is examining legal action in that case, but the anecdote is beside the point. AOL is a commercial organization. As Karl Marx said, "The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which to hang them." If Christians and freedom lovers continue to support AOL's abusive and oppressive tactics by retaining subscriptions with the power-mad corporation, they deserve the unpleasant fate that awaits them when the fruit of this tyranny fully flowers.
As the LORD said through the prophet Hosea "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge...." (Hosea 4:6). You now have the knowledge of just how evil Antichrist On Line actually is. What will YOU do about it?
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