March 1, 2006 5:10 PM PST

Spam and scams prompted AOL's fee-based e-mail

America Online says it's waging a fierce battle against Internet scam artists and is unconcerned that not everyone approves of its new approach to protecting users from phishing schemes and spam.

A plan by AOL and Yahoo to charge mass e-mailers a fee for guaranteed delivery of messages to subscribers has run into very vocal opposition from a consortium of nonprofit and public interest groups, including Civic Action, the AFL-CIO, Gun Owners of America and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The fee, scheduled to take effect in 30 days, is little more than an "e-mail tax" say opponents of the plan. Paying for e-mail will thwart the growth of grassroots organizations and divide mass e-mailers into two groups: elites who can afford to communicate with a mass audience, and those who can't and are locked out, says Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"The big nonprofits are getting the attention here, but this isn't really just for them," Cohn said. "What about the little guys that are just starting and may not be reaching an audience who wants to hear what they have to say? These are the groups that will lose."

But against a backdrop of phony aid organizations and phishing attacks, every legitimate fundraising group loses when consumers are skeptical of anyone asking for money, AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said. The classic example of this came last year in the deadly wake of Hurricane Katrina, when the American Red Cross was desperately seeking donations. The Red Cross found itself competing with a legion of hucksters, he said.

Graham noted that the aid organization was one of the first to sign up for the new e-mail service.

Phishing, the term given for setting up fake Web sites in order to trick someone out of passwords and other personal information, is at an all-time high. Graham said it's time for the company to go on the offensive.

"We're very much in combat mode around here," he said. "Our users have asked us for quite a while for help in determining good e-mail from bad. We have to provide them a mechanism to do this."

The premium e-mail service, which may cost as much as a penny per e-mail, won't cost consumers anything, AOL said. The portal intends to continue to offer its free e-mail service.

See more CNET content tagged:
America Online Inc., fee, phishing, portal, spam


Join the conversation!
Add your comment
It's about time
While I support EFF and MoveOn, I beleive that the only solution to spam and unwanted e-mail is to charge a fee for delivery. E-mail, contrary to popular beleif is not free. In the long run it costs those of us who pay ISPs for connecting us to the internet. Why then shouldn't the cost be borne by those who e-mail in quantity.

Here's the bottom line. I don't want your spam. If you have to pay for delivery, instead of me, and it puts you out of business, Hooray!!!
Posted by MythicalMe (51 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Leave the little guy out
We all hate spam, but why charge the little guy? Make a cut-off,
say at 2,000 e-mails. If you send 2K or fewer from this address,
they are free. That way church groups, boy scout troups and
civic organizations still operate free. 2,000 emails is not enough
to make money from a scam or spam.
Posted by AdGuy (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You must be kidding!!!

SPAM is wrong. No matter who it is that sends the spam. If the American Red Cross sends you SPAM, and you don't want it, that is SPAM. Just because AOL wants to make money.

It used to be, when a company could not make any money, they would close the doors, pay off their investors, and find something else to do.

this whole concept that a company must go on forever, no matter how flawed their plan or execution is, has to stop.
Posted by Foxfire70 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
economics proves you wrong
No, you hurt legit business that otherwise might not have had the "Bullhorn" of mass email. . . meanwhile you aid and insure enterprising bulk mail investment.

If your theory was even BASED in economic reality, you wouldn't receive junk mail in your Post-Box, you wouldn't need to enforce JUNK-FAX laws and paper leaflets throughout Vegas would finally go away. . .

Economic reality is this. . . spammers are making enough money HURTING you by idiotic participation in their commerence. They spend LOTS of money to adapt to filters, firewalls and people trying to put them out of business. . . yet it's still profitable.

So, they've long wanted an internet tax, and here we go . . . giving it to them in way that'll be so easy to harness. . . so easy to corrupt and so effectively useless in it's original purpose.
Posted by wysiwyg22 (41 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How naive can you be?
Anyone dopey enough to think that this is anything other than a fraudelant scheme to bail out a failed marketing model by a loser company ("If we build it and mail a billion unsolicited CDs, they will come") must be an um, ah, AOL subscriber. AOL isn't about to eliminate unsolicited commercial email. There are successful techniques for that already proven in the marketplace (Postini Perimeter Manager, for just one example). No, AOL has observed that the bad guys are now actually making a buck, and after putting on a sham show of security designed to fail, they intend to reap their share of the spam/spyware/adware/phishing revenue stream. "AOL certified mail" will guarantee one thing only - that the subscriber will receive spam from only those who have paid AOL for the privilege.
Posted by samiamtoo (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
In Order to change their tune....
AOL's choice is going to make it harder to get valid e-mail.
AOL's choice to do this is based on the fact that they have a
large percentage of the people on the internet as their
subscribers. In the past, the only way to deal with a company
like that is to get a group together to boycott their policy. One
way that we could boycott their policy is to stop sending AOL's
customers Email all together... and, instead of sending them the
actual letter, sending them a letter saying.. " You got an e-mail
from Jane at Earthlink, but because you are using AOL's mail
service, we cannot deliver it to you. The letter may have been
important.. but you won't know because AOL won't deliver it.
Have a nice day."

Let them know that they can get the actual mail message.. when
AOL lifts their policy. :)
Posted by EmailIdealist (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Extracting Toll Prompted AOL
What rubbish, this is an attempt by AOL to create a new profit center. ALL AOL users should dump them pronto.

Ronald J Riley, President
Professional Inventors Alliance
RJR (at)
Change "at" to @
RJR Direct # (202) 318-1595
Posted by Ronald J Riley (27 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A little late, but a good idea in theory
Something like this should have been done years ago, and it should have been incorporated into internet access subscriptions. We're spoiled in that it's been free up until now, but internet companies probably weren't thinking about how email usage would explode into the SPAM-laden, virus-filled, file-sending monster it is today. As an IT consultant I've worked in large business and government offices, and the amount of resources required to manage email is ridiculous!

I don't think home users should pay unless they send an extraordinary amount of email from their homes. How many people send more than 100 messages a day from their personal account? Let a typical personal account send a few thousand emails for free a month. That's not even a drop in the bucket for a SPAM-purveyor. It could actually be considered a security measure! If a users computer was infected with a virus or was a member of a botnet, they'd find out at the end of the month when their internet provider sent them the bill (naturally there should be some protection from having to pay, like when a crook steals your credit card).

As for businesses.. remember the old days when they had to pay to print and deliver paper flyers to your doorstep? The big boys could have the nice colour flyers, and the little up-and-comers had to stick photocopies in your mailbox. In either case they had to PAY to fill up your recycle bin. Since email is currently free, one person can send millions of SPAM messages a day at relatively little cost. It's not usually businesses you want to hear from either, rather it's mostly for porn and "enhancement" pills (the people who used to put small ads in adult magazines). Legitimate businesses would very likely be happy to put a little extra in the advertising budget if they knew people would be less likely to simply delete their email ads. Remember, we want to target those jerks sending MILLIONS of emails per day, which is more than your typical legitimate business. There should probably be sliding scale fees for businesses that would jump up significantly when email output approaches millions per day. It should be enough to discourage most spammers, but not so much as to discourage legitimate business advertising.

There IS a place for email advertising. It's definately more environmentally friendly, and you don't have to take it out to the curb before you leave for work in the morning. Unfortunately there are always people who will take advantage and spoil a good thing. Ultimately the consumer is to blame because we keep clicking and buying the stuff, however not all of us want to hear about ***** Asian teens "IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD!!".
Posted by fotoguy99 (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
AOL and spammers
How does AOL plan to determine who is spamming and who is a person just forwarding stuff they like? We each should be aware of the scams out there and just delete them. True, they are a bother, but you will charge people who can't afford it &/or make them stop. These include disabled people (like my nephew,) who's only contact with the outside world is the computer. This will NOT hurt the big companies, as usual the little guy will get screwed.
Posted by gramadove (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I don't mean to be rude...
But I don't want spam from small non-profits, large non-profits, medium non-profits or any one else for that matter. If I want to receive e-mails from a company or organization I will sign up for them myself. Spam is bad it doesn't matter who it comes from unless you specifically ask for it.

As for companies like AOL chargeing for e-mail. They already do charge for it in their high price for the service. They can't seem to stop the flow of spam now, I doubt charging more is going to help anything other then their greedy bottom line.

Before companies start charging more I think they need to prove they can stop 100% of the spam. Until then they don't have the right to charge more for something they can't provide.

Posted by Heebee Jeebies (632 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So who gets to be God?
They have a guaranteed delivery service and now
want money for it? As as SysAdmin, we get good
and valid e-mails now rejected by AOL and from
their Users reported as Spam when it's totally
legit. AOL gives little or no clue who's
reporting it to fix the problem.

Yahoo? Yahoo? If they could ever get anything
right in the first place it'd be a miracle and
now they want money for a service? They've let
spam and abusive mail run free for years and
never respond to their Users.

Notice this is a fee to organizations because
no person in their right mind would pay either
of these ISP's for it? Why? Because it's
impossible to eliminate all of it. And the
level of work they do won't change, just get
to collect the toll to let semi-legit spam
pass. Who says I'd want Red Cross e-mail in
my box?

So here's the God complex. What basis do they
use to reject mail and then require to get it
through means a smaller provider like we are
to pay up? Mailing lists now need to pay to
deliver to AOL or Yahoo members because of this?
What hoops and more workload are we getting
on the smaller level because of all this?

Us? Oh yes. If this goes into effect, we're
going to inform all of our Clients that mail
is not guaranteed to be delivered to either AOL
or Yahoo. And that anyone using either service
will be removed from mailing lists to reduce
the workload forced upon us.

I knew TIme-Warner was trying to shed some
weight, but I didn't know AOL and now Yahoo!
wanted to get out of the game totally with a
boneheaded stunt like this!
Posted by paradiseshore (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why not certification
Why can't aol and yahoo offer certification.

For a reasonable fee, a party could sign on with them and certify they are who they say they are. The information could tehn be verified with an agency such as experion, equifax, etc. On verification, certain statistics could be captured (e.g. Gross Revenues, number of employee's, dat of inception etc)

They could the allow their email users to post selection creteria that can be used to filter mail arising from high volume certified mailers (low volume mailers would be subject to more traditional spam controls, hig volume un-cretified mailers would be automatically rejected as would mail from high volume certified mailers that did not meet the criteria)

They should be able to do this for a couple of hundred $$ per certified mailer rathere then tens or hundreds of thousands of $$
Posted by JustJim0183 (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
AOL would do something like this. I'm just wondering how long it will take the rest of the isp's to catch up.
What grates on me is that my isp (road runner) tells me that there isn't much they can do about spam. RR says I have to prove that what is being sent is unsolicited by me. It means RR doesn't have to lift a finger to help.(Maybe these spamjunkers are their customers also? ViacomTimeWarnerRoadRunner doesn't give a darn where the revenue comes from, so why wouldn't they play both sides of the fence?). RR will not look at suspect mail until the (RR) customer complaining has broken the spam down to it's basic properties, copied it and sent it to the correct email adress at RR security.
I have plenty of filter/anti-spam software installed, yet somehow, the same bogus companies are able to penetrate RR's security. And RR can choose to block it or not after you've followed their idiotic requirements. They'll tell you they might or might not pend the junk until they (RR) have made further investigation. What is there to investigate?
When we first got on the internet it was a lot cruder for sure, but it was, dare I say, fun. The greedy conglomerates have sucked the life out of what used to be a a pretty cool quest for information. And they espouse themselves as industry leaders and innovators, which cracks me up. The isp's worship the almighty dollar, without thought or conscience. It's all about the benjamins and the shareholders.
Posted by Conster (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who get's all the money?
AOL, right?
Count it up. $.01 per message adds up in a hurry for whoever is paying AND for whoever is collecting.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot



RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.