Free Press, the LA Times and others are reporting that AOL has been systematically blocking email that contain references to the dearAOL.com campaign, aimed at getting AOL to drop their pay-to-send email filtering system.
AOL has been working on instituting a new email filtering system that would only allow unsolicited emails from senders who pay a fee to AOL — an "email tax" in effect. The problem with this system is (1) it won’t stop spam, it only will stop spam from spammers who can’t pay the fee, (2) it will stop lots of legitimate mail from non-profits and small businesses that use email as an outreach tool, (3) it will create incentives for other email providers to create similar email taxes.
Case-in-point: The swing dance website I help run Yehoodi.com routinely sends out emails to our user base, including confirmation of new accounts, info on changes of password, and other routine messages. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line our domain got tagged as sending "unsolicited email" and thus all of our email from the yehoodi.com domain now bounces if sent to an AOL address. It’s super annoying since we aren’t spammers, and so far we’ve been unsuccessful at proving this to the AOL powers that be.
I’m sure this experience is replicated by hundreds of small sites around the world who obviously would like to be able to reach their customers and users, even if they are unfortunately enough to be on America Online.
The AOL "pay-to-send" system is only going to make things worse. I’ve added my name to the dearaol.com petitition. Everybody should. It’s bad for the internet, it’s just bad. There have to be better ways to fight spam than only letting in the spammers that pay.