AOL has predictably denied blocking emails that mentioned DearAOL.com. Instead, they have described it under the handy bugbear of being a “software glitch” that affected “over 50 sites with no commonality.” A list of the sites affected was not released, so, you know, we’ll just have to take their word for it.
We don’t buy it. When any mentions of a specific domain critical of the company scanning the email results in a bounced email, that’s not a “software glitch.” That doesn’t happen in software glitches; that only happens when a domain wildcard has been deliberately entered into the spam guard filters. Since DearAOL wasn’t sending out spam, it seems that this was done specifically to censor dissenting opinions from reaching AOL’s users.
There’s something rather intriguing about this incident. More and more, we trust ISPs to filter for spam, checking all of our incoming communications and scanning them to see whether or not they are “appropriate.” But this puts a lot of trust in the hands of private companies not to add their own parameters to spam guard filters. It also raises questions on whether we’re comfortable with major corporations analyzing our personal and business communications on a minute level.
Personally, we’re a lot more comfortable with client-side spam filtering; even without AOL’s attempts at using spam guards to censor, ISPs always seem to muck it up. But what about you guys? Are you concerned by the companies analyzing your emails on a server-side level? Or do you think it’s not a big deal? Let us know in the comments.