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AOL: essential for sending junk e-mail?

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1 Author(s)
Stern, Richard H. ; Ablondi, Foster, Sobin & Davidow, Washington, DC, USA

Should marketers providing e-mail advertising to sellers of weight loss, phone sex, and get-rich-quick-scheme services have a right to send unsolicited e-mail via online services such as AOL? Does the First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantee such access as a form of free speech? Do the antitrust laws prohibit AOL and other servers from denying these marketers access to an essential facility of competition? Cyber Promotions Inc. thinks so, but the federal district court in Philadelphia did not agree. Cyber sends e-mail advertising via the Internet and AOL to AOL subscribers and to subscribers of other services linked to AOL on the Net. During the period from November 4 to November 11, 1996, Cyber sent approximately 2 million unsolicited e-mail messages through AOL to AOL subscribers. AOL tried to block Cyber's e-mail by implementing a program that AOL termed “Preferred Mail The Guard Against Junk E-Mail”. Under this system, AOL subscribers could click on a preference box captioned “I want junk e-mail!” If subscribers clicked on the box, they would get unsolicited advertising, but not otherwise. The author looks at the issues in this case

Published in:

Micro, IEEE  (Volume:17 ,  Issue: 2 )