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Sep 29 2004

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AOL and TOS

The other day, while upgrading SpamAssassin, I was watching the maillog scroll past.

I noticed that AOL rejected some of my mail … indicating a URL that I should visit for information.

Turns out some AOL subscriber had reported mail from my server for TOS violations.

Obviously in the mail log there is not useful information about who did the reporting … so I visited the URL. There was information available on how to sign up to be whitelisted by the AOL mail servers and participate in the TOS ‘feedback’ loop. This is where AOL will send a specific email address (an abuse address, generally) messages that are reported as TOS violations.

So I signed up for this and got confirmation that my servers were accepted.

I figure that the person who is reporting the list messages to TOS just wants to get unsubscribed from the list (and can’t read enough english to notice that unsubscribe instructions are at the bottom of every list message).

So today I got my first feedback loop message.

Unfortunately, there’s no indication in the reported message as to WHO reported it to TOS.

I called AOL about it and was told that they stripped out that information for privacy reasons.

So basically they are telling me: Someone thinks you are doing something wrong… but we won’t tell you who thinks this and what they think are doing wrong. But you are expected to fix it anyway.

Um, how can I fix it if you won’t tell me what is wrong?

The person at AOL was supremely unhelpful.

Luckily I can enable personalization in Mailman that will send each person on this list an individual message … and each message will include identify information so I can track down the problem (maker) in the future.

Still, AOL is pretty much violating one of the basic tenants of United States Justice … The accused is entitled to face his accuser.

1 comment

  1. alice ttlg

    I ran into this same problem and enabling personalization in Mailman took care of my lists. If you get any private email reported as spam, the AOLer’s email address is in the headers of the reported email. AOL only removes it from the TO header but leaves it in the Received header so you can identify the AOL address that way.

    I’ve seen some of the silliest things reported as spam by AOLers, after talking with them, I found that about 50% of the spam reports were mistakes, either because they intended to click on the Delete button which is right next to the Report Spam button or because they clicked once to report an email as spam and the button did two clicks and reported the first email and the next one as spam.

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