Email Filters and Fee-based Email

Posted on March 10, 2006

Wired has an interesting article about the rise of filters and how many ISP filters end up removing too much legitimate mail. They also discuss AOL's unpopular plan to charge email senders for a guaranteed delivery.

"If AOL or another ISP decides that someone's a spammer, then no e-mail from that individual gets through," said EFF attorney Cindy Cohn, whose group opposes the AOL plan. "But there's a fundamental difficulty at the heart of the spam debate: The only one who knows what you want delivered in your inbox is you."

For years, e-mail users complained that torrents of unwanted messages clogged their inboxes and crimped their productivity. Now, e-mail users, marketers and mailing list operators are more worried that spam filters are blocking out too many wanted messages.

AOL isn't the only company to face charges that it improperly blocks legitimate messages. But, as the world's largest ISP for years, it has long borne the brunt of complaints from mass e-mailers over the problem.

Those concerns are seeping into the debate over a planned AOL program, set to go live in the next month, in which approved e-mail senders pay to guarantee delivery of their messages.

The answer should be to develop better and better filters and not to start charging people to send email. The people who use AOL (or any other ISP that starts a fee-based mail service) want the legitimate mail people are trying to send them -- including legitimate emails that weren't paid for. AOL should be careful because users may depart AOL if people start realizing they are not receiving all the emails they should be receiving because of an overactive filter.

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