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alt.aol-sucks FAQ Part 1/3 - Censorship

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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 resouces 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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