AOL Up to No Good? Probably Not.

The DearAOL Coalition are up in arms over what they’re calling e-mail censorship by AOL, but AOL insists that’s not the case.

Since February, the coalition has been railing against AOL’s proposed e-mail certification program AOL is implementing with partner Goodmail, saying that the plan to charge for enhanced deliverability services threatens to undermine free e-mail as we know it.

The latest alarm being sounded by DearAOL is the coalition’s accusation that AOL began blocking all e-mails that contain the URL today, and stopped only after being “caught red-handed” by the coalition.

“Today’s events prove 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,” Timothy Karr, campaign director of coalition member Free Press, said in a statement.

According to AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham, the blocked messages were the result of a “technical glitch” that affected “a range of URLs,” and not just the address.

“A number of companies and organizations contacted AOL today about this hardware glitch. Our postmaster and ops team identified the problem and it has been fixed,” Graham said.

AOL’s explanation makes more sense than the coalition’s scenario. Given the volume of messages processed and the levels of filtering of its messages, there are bound to be occurrences like this. The DearAOL petition has been circulating freely through AOL’s e-mail system since February, so it seems a bit odd that the company would suddenly decide to begin blocking them two months later. The fact that the “glitch” was resolved within hours indicates AOL was responsive to the problem, so it seems that the coalition is once again tilting at windmills.

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