AOL Threatened by Marketers Over Ban on Spam

A group calling itself the National Organization of Internet Commerce is threatening to release the e-mail addresses of 5 million America Online members next week if AOL continues to ban advertising to subscribers.

The Chino, CA-based group, which claims to represent a variety of Internet
businesses, apparently mostly mass marketers, plans to post the addresses on
the Internet on Jan. 8, group president Joe Melle told the Associated Press.
The group initially threatened to post 1 million addresses, but reportedly
increased the number after AOL threatened legal action.

NOIC was founded three months ago and has about a dozen members. The group’s
Web site had this message on Jan 1: “Download 5 million AOL Email names for free. Starting January 8, 1998 @ 12:01am-11:59pm This event is sponsored by TSF Marketing.”

AOL–the world’s largest online service with 10 million members–called
the threat “cyber-terrorism.”

“We would avail ourselves of any legal remedies we need to protect our members . . . from this threat,” AOL spokesman Rich D’Amato was quoted as saying. He said AOL members have made it clear they do not want junk e-mail.

In fact, AOL has been waging a legal battle against companies that send to its members and has won a number of cases. Unsolicited mail makes up a significant portion of the 17 million e-mail messages that AOL handles daily.

Melle said the choice of receiving e-mail solicitations should be made by AOL
members, not AOL administrators. “All we want from America Online is to sit at the table and talk to us,” he said.

The NOIC Web site carries this message: “The National Organization of Internet Commerce is an organization dedicated to online businesses and entrepreneurs. Our goal is to protect their Civil rights and their right of free speech. We strive to protect the rights of our members, and unlike most organizations, one of our primary goals is to protect the “little guy” who does not have the money and resources to do so themselves.”

Melle said his company, TSF Marketing,
collected the AOL addresses from chat sites and other Internet locations used
by AOL subscribers. If AOL bars access to its subscribers, Melle said, his
group would lose access to about half of all Internet users.

TSF says this about itself on its Web site: “TSF Marketing has been the
industry leader in e-mail mailing list and e-mail software programs since
1995. Serving the smallest home based businesses to the world’s largest
corporations, we offer quality customer service and excellent products.”

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