CPSR Joined Diverse Coalition to Fight AOL's Email Tax
Electronic Frontier Foundation & Free Press
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, February 28,
CONTACT: Trevor Fitzgibbon, 202-246-5303, Alex Howe, Fenton Communications, 202.822.520
Diverse Coalition Teams Up to Fight
AOL's "Email Tax"
Launches New Web Site, www.DearAOL.com
AOL's pay-to-send system would hurt the Internet - stifling economic innovation, free speech and civic participation online
Today, an unlikely coalition of more than 50 groups representing over 15 million people launched an unprecedented campaign to fight AOL's new pay-to-send email proposal.
The coalition announced an "Open Letter To AOL" at www.DearAOL.com urging AOL not to implement an "email tax" that would harm Internet freedom. Coalition members include Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, MoveOn.org Civic Action, Gun Owners of America, the Association of Cancer Online Resources, the Humane Society, the AFL-CIO, and others.
As described in Tuesday's Associated Press article, "Diverse Group Teams Up To Fight Email Fee," AOL wants to allow mass-emailers to pay to bypass AOL's spam filters and get guaranteed delivery to the inboxes of AOL customers. Charities, small businesses, civic organizing groups, and even families with mailing lists would have no such guarantee their emails would be delivered and would see their email service grow increasingly unreliable.
"AOL's pay-to-send scheme threatens the free and open Internet as we
know it," said Timothy Karr, campaign director of Free Press, a
national, nonpartisan media reform organization and one of two main
sponsors of today's announcement. "The Internet needs to be a level
playing field. The flow of online information, innovation and ideas is
not a luxury to be sold off to the highest bidder."
The coalition's campaign will include a large-scale public awareness campaign about the threat AOL's email tax poses to the free and open Internet. This includes today's national conference call, petitions tomemberships, the www.DearAOL.com Web site where members of the public can sign an open letter to AOL, a "Stop AOL's Email Tax" icon that anyone can put on their Web site, a letter to the editor campaign, and future campaign tactics.
Groups involved in the coalition said AOL's proposal would harm their
ability to communicate with members. In some cases, the
consequences would be extraordinarily harmful.
"AOL's email tax could potentially block every AOL subscriber suffering from any form of cancer from receiving potentially life-saving information," said Gilles Frydman, head of the Association for Cancer Online Resources. "Cancer patients may not be able to get resources simply because a nonprofit like ACOR-which serves more than 55,000 cancer patients and caregivers every day-cannot afford to pay AOL's fee."
"Gun owners don't like the government or businesses controlling what
goes in their inboxes," said Larry Pratt Executive Director of Gun
Owners of America. "Gun owners are an independent lot; their assumption
is that government and corporations will do a bad job of managing their
The moment AOL adopts a pay-to-send system, it would be dividing the Internet into two classes of users - those who pay to get preferential treatment and those who are left behind with inevitably inferior service. AOL customers would be left wondering if emails from their friends, family and favorite causes were being delivered, since those emails would not be "guaranteed" like paid ones.
"Perversely, AOL's pay-to-send system would actually reward AOL
financially for degrading free email for regular customers as they
attempt to push people into paid-mail," said Danny O'Brien, Activism
Coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the other main
sponsor of today's event. "AOL should be working to ensure its spam
filters don't block legitimate mail, not charging protection money to
bypass those filters."
Coalition members said AOL's decision on whether to go ahead with an
"email tax" would affect the entire future of the Internet.
"We need to judge AOL's email tax by this standard: Will it change the Internet in a way that empowers or disempowers regular people who have a computer and want to turn their small idea into a big idea online, said Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action. "The Internet has revolutionized civic organizing, free speech and economic ingenuity by relying on a level playing field where the haves and have-nots get treated equally...this e-mail tax would be a big step toward dismantling that free and open Internet."
Last modified March 02, 2006 01:42 PM