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TUCoPS :: Truly Miscellaneous :: aolsuk1.faq

AOL Sucks Frequently Asked Questions Part 1: Censorship




Archive-name: online-providers/aol-sucks-faq/part1
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*** FAQ (Part I - Censorship ) ***

How can I leave AOL?             
  Delphi has full internet access.  Netcom has a new graphical user
  interface, and commercial GUI's also work on any UNIX account.
  For a list of internet access provider's sorted by area code, send
  an e-mail message with the subject "send pdial" to
  kaminski@netcom.com, or to archive-server@cs.widener.edu with the
  subject "send nixpub long".  There's also a Usenet group called
  alt.internet.access.wanted to help you leave AOL.
 

Did AOL really change the names of the newsgroups?
  Yes.  alt.aol-sucks appears on AOL as "Flames and complaints about
  AOL."
 
 
Well, this is because AOL didn't like the word "sucks", right?
  Nope.  This is because they didn't like the content of the name.
  AOL didn't touch the names of five other newsgroups with "sucks"
  in their name.  A newsgroup with the name alt.aol.rejects also had
  the AOL in its name concealed--it was changed to "Why We Don't Play
  by the Rules" for a while.  Ironically, that newsgroup was created
  to try to circumvent AOL interference.
 
 
Are you saying that AOL censors?  
  Yes.  Messages are frequently pulled from AOL public posting areas.
  
  Your service can be revoked if you say certain words in public chat
  rooms.  Anyone seeing you use such a word can page an AOL Guide,
  who will appear in the room to monitor it's content within 5
  minutes. (This has been used by ultra-conservatives that taunt gay
  users into using profanity, then summon a guide to get their access
  revoked.)
  
 
  AOL's terms of service also specifically prohibit certain topics
  which cannot be discussed; for instance, it's forbidden to advocate
  the use of drugs.  Restrictions on "discussing with the intention
  to commit illegal activities" are applied to chat rooms about
  "Hackers".
 
                                    
Okay, but people don't just go in and arbitrarily shut down things on
a whim.

   The New York Times ran a story about AOL shutting down any public
   chat room with "Riot Grrl" in its name.  (Riot Grrls are young
   punk feminists.)  They didn't like the content.
 
   At the time, the reason given was "riot" implied violence.  But
   compare that to the story of the Michigan man charged with
   electronic stalking: after calling a woman and leaving a message
   on her answering machine saying "I stalked you for the first time
   today", she called the police, who told him not to contact the
   woman again.  *That night* he sent e-mail to her AOL account using
   his AOL account, and when she reminded him that the police had
   asked him *not* to contact her, he sent her threatening e-mail...
 
   Criminal charges were filed.  But AOL never touched his account.
   He sent me e-mail from AOL the day his story appeared in the New
   York Times.  You can still download his GIF from the AOL gallery,
   or read his AOL profile--including his quote, "Sometimes you just
   gotta go for it".
                                                                   
 
Come on, that's just your opinion.  If AOL is censoring, how come the
New York Times hasn't run a front-page story about it?
 
   They have.
 
   Peter H. Lewis 
   New York Times  Wednesday, June 29, 1994
 
 
           Censors Become a Force on Cyberspace Frontier
 
   Freedom of expression has always been the rule in the fast-growing
   global web of public and private computer networks known as
   cyberspace.  But even as thousands of Americans each week join the
   several million who use computer networks to share ideas and
   "chat" with others, the companies that control the networks, and
   sometimes individual users, are beginning to play the role of
   censor.
                  
        Earlier this month, the America Online network shut several
   feminist discussion forums....
  
                                           [copyright New York Times]
          
   The American Library Association felt so strongly about the issue,
   they reprinted the article in their newsletter, "Intellectual
   Freedom".
                                                             
   Andrew Kantor reported in Internet World that AOL even edits the 
   results of their Gopher searches.   
 
 
Why don't the AOL user's complain?
   A Usenet posting listed the headings of dozens of complaints
   AOL-ers posted in the complaint area devoted just to complaints
   about AOL's internet access.  Among the headings were "Suggestion
   box broken."  Also included were:
 
   >Newsgroup suggestion box
   >Does the suggestion box ever work?
   >Please respond to this!
   >Is anybody listening?
   >I wonder if anyone reads these? 
 
   AOL's philosophy borders on net-abuse.  They went online with a
   Usenet software containing a bug that re-posted every message
   seven times, and even without that, the worldwide cost of
   transmitting AOL messages just to the alt.binaries.pictures.*
   groups over one year has been calculated to be 700 million
   dollars.  { 1790.69 kilobytes per two weeks x 26 x .264 ("cost
   per byte for each site") x 58402 (number of sites) =
   $717,836,278.34 }
 
   Allowing their one million users access to FTP sites without
   consideration of the load was similar; straining resources shared
   for other work often forces sites to close.  Several sites have
   blocked AOL access because of this.  And because of net-
   citizenship issues:  AOL users can *take* files from FTP sites,
   but they can't leave any, and while AOL charges for access to
   resources made available to them freely, they prohibit access to
   any of their own.
 
   This gets into an ideological war.  Technology now allows people
   to freely exchange information at an amazing rate.  AOL attaches a
   meter to that process.  In addition, aggressively pursuing new
   users, AOL exploits the lack of awareness of existing
   technological capabilities, and establishes a model that follows
   the traditional role of pre-packaged entertainment designed for a
   mass audience.  New users are taught to expect commercial content,
   pay-as-you-go access, and regulatory oversight determining what's
   appropriate.  Last October there were rumors that AOL even wanted
   to acquire their own backbone to exploit changes in internet
   backbone status.  This has come to pass.  The internet community
   is left to hope that as the internet and information technology
   evolve, the greater good will prevail.
 
 
                                                         [End Part I]


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