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Nonprofits Join Together to Fight AOL Email Plans

March 6, 2006

(March 6, 2006) Several nonprofits have joined together to launch a campaign against America Online’s (AOL) plans to charge fees for organizations using a new certified email system.

The coalition includes such organizations as the AFL-CIO, the Humane Society of the United States, Gun Owners of America, Defenders of Wildlife and Oxfam America. It has created a website,, to create awareness about the AOL program and encourage the public to sign a petition against it.

The coalition argues that the plan “would actually reward AOL financially for failing to maintain its email service.” Since email sent through the certified program would bypass AOL’s filters, the charities believe the company will have little financial incentive to maintain and update its regular filters for emails for which is there is no charge.

In addition, the coalition charges that the program may actually allow more—not less— unwanted emails to get in an individual’s inbox. A blog on the coalition’s website quoted Andrew Lochart of the email service provider Postini: “[The program] guarantees delivery of paid-for bulk email based on the sender paying, not based on users’ preferences,” Lochart told Red Herring. “In other words, it will allow more, not less, unwanted email through to users.”

AOL has issued an email statement, saying, “We believe more choices, and more alternatives, for safety and email authentication is a good thing for the Internet, not bad. Everything that AOL has in place today free for email senders remains—and will only improve.”

To send certified email, mailers would pay an estimated 1/4 of a cent to a penny for every message sent to every email address on the mailing list, equaling thousands of dollars for email messages sent to large lists. The program would affect approximately 18 million AOL users.

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