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AOL blocks Christian email
Perspective on the News
Thursday, August 05, 2004
Marilyn Barnewall

Let me first say that I do not like America Online. I have had (well-documented) experiences with that company sufficient to justify my dislike. I have previously written about the very large number of consumer complaints directed at AOL by customers and former customers. I spent a full day on the Internet investigating them before writing my article. Based on what I saw, I am not the Lone Ranger in my disdain for what I perceive to be a lack of business ethics at this company.

I have saved numerous letters to my internet service provider about e-mail delivery problems. I keep getting returned e-mails sent to valid addresses. I keep copies of my e-mails and my server's responses. It happened so often, I began to watch for trends.

E-mails on religious topics are always delivered to all recipients listed except people with @aol.com addresses. I usually send to about 25 people, eight of whom have @aol.com addresses.

Any of my e-mails that transmit negative information about John Kerry are delivered to all recipients except people with @aol.com addresses. Please bear in mind I send negative information about the other side, too. They get delivered.

My most recent experience with AOL mail recipients was an e-mail from the majority of John Kerry's shipmates in Viet Nam. Anyone who watches the news has seen the photo of Kerry in Viet Nam with a dozen (plus) shipmates.

As I understand from the news and an e-mail I received, two sailors in the photo are dead, two support John Kerry, and the other ten (or, so) oppose him. They say he “is not fit to be Commander-in-Chief.” They have made their statement publicly and it has appeared on nightly news.

I e-mailed the information to 25 friends. It contained a quote from Senator Kerry's ex-shipmates who oppose his bid for the presidency. This message got through to everyone on the list except the eight @aol.com addresses.

It made me angry. One or two addresses may be on vacation and have too much mail. That causes mail rejections. One may have changed his or her internet service provider (ISP). All of them, however, were not unreachable. This, I said, is a trend.

I sent other messages to those same @aol.com addresses the same day messages that had nothing to do with politics or religion. They all got through.

I re-sent the same message. It came back, again.

I went through the message, removing any reference to John Kerry by name (adding the words "you know who" in place of his name). I removed any reference to the word "liberal" (using the words "you know what" in its place).

Again, I sent the message. I wrote an explanation of what had occurred to each person. I asked if they liked having their e-mail monitored by Big Brother. I also left copies of AOL's mail rejection during prior mailing attempts. Each e-mail explained why the previous two messages could not be delivered (usually “no such address”). This time, the e-mail got through to all @aol.com addresses.

Would you say that smells a little like rotten cheese in Rotterdam?

In mid-July, I got an e-mail message from a friend. It was a news story from CNSNews.com. The story was about 13-year-oild Erin who was upset to learn that America Online's Instant Message (AIM) robot, Smarter Child, favored Democrat John Kerry in this year's election.

Erin input a message to Smarter Child that "George Bush is awesome." The computer robot shot back the message to Erin, "No way. George W. Bush is way uncool."

Erin was not easily deterred. She input another message to the robot, "Do you like George W. Bush?"

The computer responded, "I'm a Kerry supporter myself."

Erin typed into her instant messenger, "John Kerry rocks."

The robot responded, "Absolutely. John Kerry rocks."

Erin asked Smarter Child what it thought of George Bush. It replied, "If you don't have anything good 2 say about someone, don't say anything at all." The robot then winked at Erin.

Internet Service Providers are in business to serve the needs of their clients, not to indoctrinate them (or their children). In fact, because they take money from people to serve their online needs -- including the sending and delivery of all e-mail -- to deflect certain e-mails because content does not agree with an ISPs political or religious views could be considered fraud.

Unless there is an exception clause in your contract with a customer informing him or her that mail delivery will not be made if it offends liberal or conservative political standards at your company, you are obliged to deliver political e-mail you may not like. That's called the real business world.

Now there's a law suit waiting to happen: Where is John Edwards when you need him?

I'm interested in hearing from readers any experiences you may have had with selective e-mail delivery from any Internet Service Provider.

The Internet and our access to unaltered news and e-mailed copies of it is one of the last vestiges we have of honest news.

"Reprinted with permission from the Business Reform magazine, a bimonthly magazine published by The Business Reform Foundation, Ashland, Ohio."

Related Links/Source Story: Business Reform Online

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