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Dealing with False AOL Spam Reports?

Cliff posted about 10 years ago | from the bad-interfaces-and-blocked-mail dept.

Spam 371

aohell-guy asks: "I handle the mail servers for a business that has 20% of our members using AOL. We regularly send out email that our members have agreed to receive. In AOL 8.0, it was possible to click a single message and report it as spam. You would be prompted to confirm the spam report, although no details explaining what happens with the report are given to the user. Through AOL's Postmaster site, it is possible to get in on the spam 'Feedback Loop,' where AOL will send you the spam reports it receives for mail sent from your servers. When you receive a report, you are supposed to immediately cease the sending of email to that AOL address. The only problem is, we have found that most of the time the AOL users are reporting our email as spam on accident! These complaints can negatively impact your ability to send email to AOL members. How are you handling the false reports?""In version 9.0, AOL made two incredibly stupid mistakes which make false positive spam reports skyrocket. First is they now allow their users to select multiple messages at once and report them all as spam. Second, when you hit the spam report button (which is located DIRECTLY next to the delete button), it IMMEDIATELY files the spam report -- there is no confirmation required. Sure, the AOL user can see they made a mistake and move your email back out of their spam folder...but the report is still filed against your server. Rack up enough of these reports, and you will not be able to send mail to AOL. We have had plenty of complaints come in, and we delete their accounts as they do -- except with our paying members. We ask them if they really want to cancel? In ALL cases but one, we have received replies stating it was an accident.

We have spoken to people within AOL that deal with the mail. (Amazingly, it is not too hard to speak with them if you are a business sending email to AOL users.) The ones we've spoken to are not happy with these changes in AOL 9.0, and admit they result in many false positives.

If you are sending a lot of email to AOL users, you will want to get in on their feedback loop ASAP, and also look into getting on AOL's 'whitelist,' which ensures that your mail will not be silently filtered into the bit bucket, as long as you keep your mail bounces and spam reports (ahem!) at a low level."

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Whaaaat? Cluesless AOL users? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8663974)

Who would've thought that possible.

Re:Whaaaat? Cluesless AOL users? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8664012)


Re:Whaaaat? Cluesless AOL users? (4, Informative)

Moonpie Madness (764217) | about 10 years ago | (#8664039)

Dont be too hard on AOL, if it weren't for that sore thumb '@aol.com' it'd be a lot harder for me to identify dummies out there. dumb people are simply a fact of life, and they deserve to get some internet access. a spoon feeding paternalistic service is great for them, and worth the money, and they give a lot of their money (more loosely than most) to a lot of internet businesses, though i have to admit they arent really much effect on the Linux community

Jobless IT professionals: **Business Opportunity** (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8664311)

I am willing to be gay at low, low prices.

Re:Whaaaat? Cluesless AOL users? (1, Redundant)

drooling-dog (189103) | about 10 years ago | (#8664453)

Of course you're assuming that they actually wanted this mail that they "agreed to receive". It could be that many/most of them actually did consider it to be spam. After all, they went to the effort to report it as such...

Why is Slashdot supporting spammers? (-1, Troll)

bconway (63464) | about 10 years ago | (#8663979)

It doesn't matter how you dress it up, apparently AOL has some quasi-effective means of blocking spam, and the poster wants to work around it. Listen buddy, we don't want you here, and we aren't going to help you. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Not your fault - you're dealing with AOL (4, Insightful)

eaglebtc (303754) | about 10 years ago | (#8663984)

Unfortunately you're dealing with AOL, a company that has always been a few cents short of a dollar. There's probably not much you can do. Sorry this isn't helpful, but it's not your fault they placed the Junk button so close to the delete button.

mod parent insightful (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8664066)

mod parent insightful

AOL is quite reasonable (5, Informative)

arglesnaf (454704) | about 10 years ago | (#8664334)

As a matter of fact AOL handles this quite reasonably. The secret is reverse resolution.

I am postmaster and in the IT security department of a fortune 150 Office Supply company. We started to experience this problem, and contacted AOL. We were added to the whitelist, set up the feedback loop yet we kept getting blacklisted. Spoke with a tech who told us to call the corporate phone number and speak with the "Spam Czar" whose name I cannot recall and cannot locate via google.

After speaking with him we discovered we were still getting blacklisted after around five complaints, when we send thousands of order confirmations to AOL addresses a day. They tracked down the problem, and it was that one of our mail servers did not reverse resolve. We fixed this, and bam, we now take nearly a hundred complaints to be blacklisted.

(You wouldn't believe how many people flag an order confirmation as spam. You also wouldn't believe how many corporate employees forward there email to AOL and flag it as spam, when they forwarded the spam to themselves!)

It was quite embaressing that we were not reverse resolving the host that sends order confirmations. We do send some opt-in marketing, but it originates from a different server.

(Our marketing you opt into while ordering, don't flame me, we do not purchase lists!)

Re:AOL is quite reasonable (1)

liquidpele (663430) | about 10 years ago | (#8664430)

what do you mean by "reverse resolving" ?
I've never heard the term...

Re:AOL is quite reasonable (5, Informative)

LordWoody (187919) | about 10 years ago | (#8664460)

Reverse DNS, eg: -> mail.yourdomain.com
forward DNS: mail.yourdomain.com ->


Re:AOL is quite reasonable (1)

jdew (644405) | about 10 years ago | (#8664470)

jdew@chronos:p7[~]$ host slashdot.org slashdot.org has address jdew@chronos:p7[~]$ host is an alias for 150.0/ 150.0/ domain name pointer slashdot.org.

We just... (1, Interesting)

Valiss (463641) | about 10 years ago | (#8663990)

.... aviod AOL altogether. I know that's not helpful, but our company simply gives our users dial-up accounts to dial into the building. Seems to circumvent the situation. If your company can afford it, setting up your own private "ISP" is the way to go.

So did I (2, Interesting)

sjb2016 (514986) | about 10 years ago | (#8664137)

My mom had her account frozen because of a similar mistake. I've been trying to get her to stop using AOL for years, but she was too afraid it'd be too complex. This was finally the straw that broke the camel's back. Now she uses Juno and I provided her (and my whole family) e-mail addresses through my account with Lunarpages in case she doesn't like Juno. The best part is, for some reason, attachments are now more intuitive to use for her, so I don't get a phone call 3 times a week as she tries to view the picture of her granddaughter. All at half the price.

I have this same problem (3, Interesting)

Xshare (762241) | about 10 years ago | (#8663993)

My emails get routed to null at aol as well. Really sucks when trying to contact a client who uses AOL. Get the owner of the box (root access, some stupid AOL rule) to call the AOL Postmaster, stay on hold a bit, and you can get it all sorted out.

Re:I have this same problem (4, Interesting)

Thing I am (761900) | about 10 years ago | (#8664061)

Stay on hold a bit? The first time I called, I was on hold for 25 minutes. The second time was a bit less, 18 minutes. The loop of music they play sucks too.

Re:I have this same problem (0, Offtopic)

c1ay (703047) | about 10 years ago | (#8664331)

My emails get routed to null at aol as well. Mine too, which is just fine by me. It gives me more time to email Darl [mailto] with stupid questions and post his email address on /. repeatedly so others can do the same :-) OK now, group mail hug, everyone email Darl and let him know you're thinking of him.

Re:I have this same problem (1)

Kerbz (176109) | about 10 years ago | (#8664420)

Note: If your mail server's ip address does not have a reverse dns lookup entry, your email is indeed immediately deleted by AOL's email servers, with no bounce message and no indication of any problem whatsoever.

You asked.... (4, Informative)

Smitedogg (527493) | about 10 years ago | (#8663995)

I think you've done all you can. I would even go so far as to say that you've answered your own question. Call AOL, make sure they know you're legit, and wait for the next version of AOL to fix what turned out to be a bad design choice. In the meantime, maybe add a note to one of your mailings suggesting that they make sure to be careful about that. It's not like you can do anything else.


no chance for us... (3, Interesting)

wo1verin3 (473094) | about 10 years ago | (#8663998)

I work in a tech support environment dealing with end users, many using AOL. The e-mails we sent out come from the same or a similar address, and all have a similar format such as opening and closing, AOL seems to 'randomly' block them. I know it's really not random, but trying to figure it out is next to impossible.

Re:no chance for us... (4, Informative)

techno-vampire (666512) | about 10 years ago | (#8664422)

A few years ago, AOL was known to block all mail from random domains to lower its server load when things got overloaded. I see no reason to think they've stopped.

Americans are fat, lazy, stupid, and overpaid (-1, Troll)

ObviousGuy (578567) | about 10 years ago | (#8664002)

Now there's a company dedicated to putting these people online.

Maybe it's just better to let those folks live in their little kiddy pool Net than to try to treat them as equals.

Incredibly stupid mistake (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | about 10 years ago | (#8664006)

When I hear incredibly stupid mistake about AOL, it's like hearing the word patch associated with M$.

Seriously a spam report is the least of AOL's problem. As soon as the rest of the internet noobs figure out how to use the internet via a regular ISP, AOL is history.

My email never gets blocked by AOL (5, Funny)

Grey Ninja (739021) | about 10 years ago | (#8664007)

Just put "Enlarge your Member" in the subject line. It NEVER gets marked as spam in my experience. I sell about 200 pounds of snake oil a day to AOL users.

Spammer (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8664011)

Fuck off

Mod this up +5 insightful (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8664364)

This is NOT a troll!

No one likes scomp (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8664014)

I work for an internet hosting provider and we get an incredible number of AOL spam complaints daily.

We manually file almost all of them as spam.

We haven't automated it yet because getting an even more excessive number of them at once might indicate an owned server or something.

Other than that, they are almost completely worthless. 90% of them (or more) come to us because people forward mail for their domains to AOL.

Lucky clients... (2, Insightful)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | about 10 years ago | (#8664017)

"The only problem is, we have found that most of the time the AOL users are reporting our email as spam on accident!"

Sure... on "accident."

Seriously - I'm not sure what business you're in, but do your clients really need to be using AOL? Could be worse, I guess. It could be Netzero. Still, I have a few clients that are AOL customers, and the host of problems that they've faced has been enough to convince them to switch.

Connections, mail problems, whatever.

Re:Lucky clients... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8664204)

The thing is, it likely is NOT by "accident". I bought some products from swansonvitamins.com. I started getting spammed to my hotmail address (heh, which is precisely why I HAVE a hotmail address). Every mail provides links to click if I want to opt out of some or all of the "offers". I chose "opt out of all" on more than one occasion, but swanson continues to spam me. So even though I am (was) a happy customer of theirs with a "pre-existing business relationship" (ie. implicit permission to spam me), I now report all of their shit as JUNK, and they can go take a flying fuck if they think I'm doing so by "accident".

Re:Lucky clients... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8664381)

Sure... on "accident."

No, honestly they did!

P.S. while you're there - some of my other "clients" accidentally installed and used Bayesian filtering. Silly them - now they can't buy my p3ni5 enlarjement p1LLs^W^W^W^W^W er... read important er... stuff they want to see... please tell me how I can help these other clients receive my important messages!

If it looks like spam, it wants money and you didn't want it: it's spam.

Re:Lucky clients... (5, Insightful)

Unholy_Kingfish (614606) | about 10 years ago | (#8664405)

Seriously - I'm not sure what business you're in, but do your clients really need to be using AOL?

I am not sure about what he means by clients, but we have this problem with customers. One of the sites I manage DressKids.com [dresskids.com] , sends out an email conformation for the order, a CC card conformation from the processor (not my choice) and then an email when the order is shipped. Plus we send out a newsletter about every 3-4 months. Pretty reasonable right? We don't spam, we don't sell lists. Our emails do not get through to AOL subscribers. Why? because people repost them as spam, whether it is intentional or not. We get many phone calls from cranky customers complaining they didn't get their email. But those same people are reporting those emails as spam. About 20% of our base is on AOL. Most of them are new moms/housewives on AOL. They have no clue what they are doing. Plus they don't care that they have no clue and take it out on us. AOL needs to do something about this. Having to contact AOL on a regular basis to reverse something dumb that their customers are doing is unreasonable. Spam is a problem, no argument with that. But when legit emails do not get through because of false reports, who's fault is it? Who should fix it? Who has the time?

it is a tough situation (4, Interesting)

LupusUF (512364) | about 10 years ago | (#8664022)

Unfortunately there is not much you can do except listen to them. Even if you think someone reported you on accident, drop them from the list. If they complain later, simply supply them with a copy of the e-mail that you were sent by AOL saying that you were reported by them as SPAM. This is an annoying solution, but you don't want to get added to AOL's spam list. It is VERY difficult to get taken off once you have been put on. You can even spin it in a positive light if you get complaints from users asking why they no longer get e-mail from you. Say that you are aggressively opposed to spam, and stop sending mail at the first sign that your letters are unwanted.

The only other thing I could think of is maybe put a note in the messages of your AOL users asking them to contact AOL and fix their policy. The chances of this working are beyond slim, but it will make it appear to your users that you are trying to serve them the best that you can.

Re:it is a tough situation (2, Insightful)

Wycliffe (116160) | about 10 years ago | (#8664087)

Maybe anecdotal, but one of my servers was once accidently added to AOL's spam list, and although it took about 2 days, I was able to get removed from their list fairly easily. So yes, it is possible, but the better thing is obviously to never get put on it to begin with.

Re:it is a tough situation (5, Funny)

circusnews (618726) | about 10 years ago | (#8664326)

The only other thing I could think of is maybe put a note in the messages of your AOL users asking them to contact AOL and fix their policy. The chances of this working are beyond slim, but it will make it appear to your users that you are trying to serve them the best that you can.

I have found having 20 or 30 AOL users call AOL's tech support screaming about AOL bouncing importiant mail as spam gets you off the list fairly quickly.

User's don't report Spam on accident.... (0, Flamebait)

LostCluster (625375) | about 10 years ago | (#8664029)

You seem to be confused, you're sending mail that is prompting users to click on the "This is Spam!" button even though your readers tell you they want to hear from you.

It might work better if you provided useful content "above the fold" of every message you send, then follow it with "Today's content was sponsored by...". If you're sending a pure ad in e-mail, it smells like Spam and users are going to turn it in...

Re:User's don't report Spam on accident.... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8664090)

You, Sir, are an idiot.

A lot of users subscribe to some stuff, then are too lazy or too stupid to unsubscribe again.

Since we are talking about AOL users, the benefit of doubt definitely belongs to the sender in this case.


Had the same problem... (3, Interesting)

Keighvin (166133) | about 10 years ago | (#8664031)

I used to work for a (legit) marketing firm, and had this same issue with AOL. They were technologically savvy enough thought, and had enough latitude with the membership services, that we set up aliased email accounts on our own servers for our subscribers. This dramatically cut down on our false-positives after we asked filters to be set up by our clients to get them into the right place to begin with (i.e., different folder).

Your mileage may very, and not everyone has the option to ask that kind of technical activity of their clients, so we lucked out. Might want to give it a try though.

On accident? (-1, Insightful)

Rahga (13479) | about 10 years ago | (#8664034)

Let's look at this again... The situation:

"We regularly send out email that our members have agreed to receive."

The problem:

"The only problem is, we have found that most of the time the AOL users are reporting our email as spam on accident!"

They may have agreed to recieve it, but that in no way means that they are making a mistake by marking it spam. They've answered their own question: Stop sending out e-mail on a regular basis.... The only regular mailing that I welcome is the GNOME weekly summary.

Re:On accident? (5, Informative)

batkiwi (137781) | about 10 years ago | (#8664168)


We have had plenty of complaints come in, and we delete their accounts as they do -- except with our paying members. We ask them if they really want to cancel? In ALL cases but one, we have received replies stating it was an accident.

Or are you using AOL 9.0 and accidentally clicked the submit button before reading the full text of the post?

Hey retard (3, Informative)

autopr0n (534291) | about 10 years ago | (#8664183)

If you'd read the article you'd see that they know it was accidental (these were paying customers), and when they tried to confim the email, the users themselves claimed it was an accident.

Re:Hey retard (1)

DavidTC (10147) | about 10 years ago | (#8664274)

Tough. Cancel them anyway. They obviously don't want it there.

Granted, if they then ask you where their stuff is, say 'We've got it right here, do you have an email address you wish it to be sent to, as the last address we sent it to reported it as spam?'.

The spam problem is bad enough without having to tip-toe around users so stupid they report email they've paid for as spam.

Re:Hey retard (1)

Rahga (13479) | about 10 years ago | (#8664413)

Well, here in the real world, when customers sign up to use stuff like an online product support site, they are asked to provide and e-mail address and passively agree to get e-mail mailings. Many of them are PAYING CUSTOMERS. Just because you are sending regular e-mail to paying customers does not mean it is not spam.

Take the hint (1, Redundant)

domodude (613072) | about 10 years ago | (#8664036)

Take the hint and unsubscribe them from the newsletter/mailing that they "opted" to receive. It is not too hard.

Re:Take the hint (1)

tupps (43964) | about 10 years ago | (#8664380)

the users are paying for the newsletter, so not only have they 'opted' to receive it your future income depends on it.

SourceForge mailing lists are blocked by AOL (5, Interesting)

tramm (16077) | about 10 years ago | (#8664037)

I run several projects on SourceForge, including autopilot [sourceforge.net], that have had all of the AOL subscribers removed from the mailing lists due to spam bounces. Since so many AOL users receive mail from SourceForge hosted mailing lists, it does not take many accidentally clicking the spam button to blacklist the SF servers.

I submitted a support request [sourceforge.net] to SF about it, and they said (rightfully) that it is AOL's problem.

Re:SourceForge mailing lists are blocked by AOL (4, Interesting)

ajs (35943) | about 10 years ago | (#8664126)

This has been AOL's approach since the beginning. They started with convoluted means of "proving" that you were not a spammer. Then they moved on to refusing to listen to any servers that they considered "residential"...

I really expect that within the next 5 to 10 years, they will not send or recieve email at all unless it involves a "partner" of theirs.

AOL eh? (1)

LordK3nn3th (715352) | about 10 years ago | (#8664045)

I find AOL to be rather laughable now.

AOL, as crappy as their business is, is rather large. You think you're the only one dealing with this problem? Unlikely.

If worst comes to worst, you just might not have to support AOL e-mails.

there's life outside of.... (1)

HFactor_UM (678556) | about 10 years ago | (#8664050)

...AOL? But AOL's so shiny and fancy, how could it be?!? Pretty, pretty AOL.

A professor of mine had a similar situation with some class mailings that he did. Some odd configuration of his email server had caused AOL to blacklist him - period.

AOL almost knows me by name.... (5, Interesting)

m0rb0 (708781) | about 10 years ago | (#8664051)

I work for an independt-regional isp, and often have to serve as the conduit for users who cannot e-mail AOL. Quite simply, I have to spend 20-30min each time with customer support to have our ip addresses "removed" from their abuse list. If there IS a better solution, I have not found it yet!

It's pointless trying to talk to anyone in aol (1, Interesting)

zakezuke (229119) | about 10 years ago | (#8664069)

At some point in my history... I was using pine, and sending mail. I set name using chfn "first I last", though my memory could be foggy and it could have been "first I. last". This wasn't a problem for any mail server except for AOL... for some reason it wouldn't parse correctly and try to send mail to "first I@domain.com"

Dispite honest efforts trying to get a hold of the mail staff, by my self and my isp... at no point was it possible to actually report the problem to anyone.

The final solution was just changing my name to "first last"... as it was important at the time to actually to get proper replies from people at AOL for some reason.

While not directly related to story... it just goes to show you that trying to actually communicate with anyone with in the AOL realm is practicaly impossible, and you should just give up before you start. The best you can do is communicate to people that AOL has *this* problem and your only resolve is to either do things diffrently, or switch services.

AOL's fault ? (1)

ThomasFlip (669988) | about 10 years ago | (#8664072)

Shouldn't AOL be the people policing the spam ? The last people qualified to distinguish between a piece of spam from a normal piece of email are AOL users. For god's sake, how do you think the MyDoom virus got spread ? people not knowing how to properly identify illegitmate email. You would think AOL be able to identify the fact that their users are at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to online aptitude.

My experience... (4, Interesting)

ptomblin (1378) | about 10 years ago | (#8664073)

I run a bunch of Mailman mailing lists. One time, one of the people on this mailing list false SpamCop-ed one of the monthly mailing list reminders, which caused my ISP to complain to me. I kicked him off the mailing list and told him he couldn't come back until he'd convinced my ISP that the spam report was in error. I don't think he ever did come back on, but fortunately the ISP didn't kick me off - perhaps it's giving RoadRunner too much credit, but even *they* must realize the huge false positive rate from SpamCop.

On Accident (-1, Offtopic)

nzkoz (139612) | about 10 years ago | (#8664098)

For future reference, your users are doing this "accidentally" or "by mistake". "On accident" doesn't make any sense.

I assume your emails are a little more lucid than your /. posts.


This happened to me. (3, Interesting)

cmburns69 (169686) | about 10 years ago | (#8664101)

Actually, I'm not sure I ever received any spam reports against my server. But it was terrible getting whitelisted. They directed me to call a certain number that didn't work 1/2 the time, and I had to wait on hold for at least 30 minutes.

All to tell them that my server wasn't blocked. They told me it wasn't. I told them that was the error I was receiving. They told me my server wasn't on the list.

Eventually I mentioned that my server was in Rackshacks datacenter. Apparently they had banned a whole range of IP addresses, and their utilities didn't show if an IP were in that list.

So after a very frustrating conversation, they whitelisted me. Any way, I don't know how this helps you, but it feels good to vent!

Tough fucking shit. (-1, Flamebait)

Pig Hogger (10379) | about 10 years ago | (#8664109)

Though fucking shit, pal.

You painted yourself in a corner with your "bidzness"; sending mass-emails is just *** PLAIN STUPID *** nowadays.

Perhaps it's time to update your bidzness model? Why don't you use a **WEBSITE** to send your information rather than mass-emails???

Re:Tough fucking shit. (1)

LordK3nn3th (715352) | about 10 years ago | (#8664205)

Troll. He said he handles the mail servers for a business. He didn't say mailing was the business. Almost every big business has mail servers for many reasons.

EmailOK field (2, Interesting)

Kris_J (10111) | about 10 years ago | (#8664110)

For our database at work we have an EmailOK field. If an email bounces or otherwise doesn't get to the recipient as expected, the email address is tagged as suspect and a message is sent using another method of communication indicating that the email we currently have needs to be replaced or re-confirmed. Any process that sends emails is supposed to look at the EmailOK field and only send if it's empty or Y. (Other values are N for not okay and O for over quota, you could add an R or S for reported as spam.)

We have an IT meeting soon where I will be leading a discussion about on-line communications. I will be suggesting that we don't accept all email addresses from Hotmail (so many bounce with user unknown or over quota) and "hanmail" (incoming messages get tagged as spam because of the HTML that the service wraps user messages in), and that we start recording IM accounts as a backup communications option. I'm not saying we refuse emails from Hotmail accounts, I'm just saying that when you tell us your address, we won't accept a Hotmail address.

solution (1)

erikdotla (609033) | about 10 years ago | (#8664118)

if ($emailaddress =~ /aol.com/i) {

Re:solution (2, Informative)

Green Light (32766) | about 10 years ago | (#8664242)

I hope you know that you are now filtering out all mail from aolacom! Not to mention aolecom, aolucom, ... oh forget it.

Maybe you meant /aol\.com/i for the RE?

Accidental spam reports, eh? (2, Insightful)

void warranty() (232725) | about 10 years ago | (#8664151)

Most likely they signed up for the newsletter by accident and now they don't want it anymore.

When I get newseletters that claim I signed up for them, the first things I utterly avoid are reading them and following any links or instructions in them.

So, just stop sending email to people who obviously don't want it anymore; consider the spam report as unsubscribe requests.

Re:Accidental spam reports, eh? (1)

jnicholson (733344) | about 10 years ago | (#8664402)

I know we don't read the article here on /., but I didn't realise we weren't supposed to read the question either.

The users weren't accidentally misclassifying the messsages as spam; they were accidentally hitting the wrong button. And even if you don't ever send to them again, the problem is that there's a multitude of users and if enough of them hit the wrong button even once, none of your AOL subscribers can now receive the messages. Add to this that the messages are paid for, and you can understand the poster's question/problem.

misc (1)

erikdotla (609033) | about 10 years ago | (#8664155)

First your message should say "This message is part of your Whatever.com subscription, which you signed up for on mm/dd/yyyy." If you have anything else than this as the first line of your message, you're asking for it.

But this is nothing. I run a mail server and I set up accounts which auto forward to AOL accounts. The users would spread their address everywhere, and when spammers would spam it, it would forward to AOL and they'd mark it as junk, and AOL would block ME since *I* sent it to them - makes no sense. I stopped forwarding to AOL (or to anyone, really.) POP or Nothing.

trash emails --- spam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8664157)

You recipients, and I, just add the senders of emails that they don't the fuck want to their mark-as-spam list.

Your users think you emails are shit, and they can't be bothered the - probably - ordeal of unsubscribing. De-list those who don't want your ... yup, spam, spammer.

Great story! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8664158)

Thanks for not using the trite "read on" phrase!

You're F***ed. (2, Insightful)

Lord Kano (13027) | about 10 years ago | (#8664160)

The only problem is, we have found that most of the time the AOL users are reporting our email as spam on accident!

My personal opinion is that since AOL caters to the lowest element, that's what their users tend to be. If you're in a situation where you have to send business emails to someone using an AOL address, perhaps you should try to persuade them to get a yahoo address as well.

Unless you're willing/able to hire someone to work full time on dealing with the idiots who requested your emails and them reported them as spam, I don't see an end to your problems.


parent's website (0, Offtopic)

timmarhy (659436) | about 10 years ago | (#8664161)

luck you didn't post it or mention it's name or AOL black lists will be the last of your problem.

Excessive block (1)

Slotty (562298) | about 10 years ago | (#8664163)

AOL has blocked a huge portion of I.P addresses in Australia like has been blocked off or something insane like that so AOL is no concern of mine if our clients have to contact AOL users we suggest they try hotmail or yahoo mail for those clients as AOL refuses to remove the ban. Now that's outrageous

+5 Informative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8664187)

"on accident" is nonsense. that's like "setting" on the bed. try "by accident."

Wow (1, Flamebait)

PingXao (153057) | about 10 years ago | (#8664190)

I don't know where to begin...

First and foremost, don't assume they are reporting your turdlets as spam "by accident". Perhaps they really don't want your emails after all. If they really want to hear from you they'll be signing up again. You're SOL as far as I can tell. The only responsible thing to do is stop sending them to anyone who has complained. Whether on purpose or by accident. Unless you're really spamming, in which case you're the scum of the earth and will keep on sending unwanted email regardless of whether or not the recipient wants it, but I'm not making that accusation.

Secondly, if you're a business then why do you refer to your email recipients as "members"? Are they in some sort of "affiliate" program you manage? I really don't understand this. No real business refers to their cusomers as "members". Well, I guess health clubs, country clubs and other clubs do... And shady operations that want to spin what they're doing as "not spam".

So stop sending the emails and put in place a method where people who really want to receive your email re-sign up with you. Then email them once and ask them to respond affirmatively if they really want to receive email from you. I's called "confirmed opt-in". Once you have that affirmative acceptance in hand you should be able to use it to positively refute any aaccusation by AOL that you are sending unwanted, unsolicited email.

Re:Wow (2)

Malc (1751) | about 10 years ago | (#8664244)

Trouble with people complaining at AOL is that the complaint doesn't get forwarded to the sender... so you can't really avoid them again.

When he said members, perhaps he has some mailing list software that defines subscriptions to the list(s) as membership. Obvious terminology to a techie and not businessman.

Don't mail them - and tell the users why (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8664191)

We have 125,000 AOL users (including 3,000 Compuserve) who are marked in our DB as hold due to being blocked by AOL mail servers. These are opt-in lists for product updates and news letters. People have to jump through hoops just to get on to the list in the first place. It's not worth the hassle to us. If this makes a large number of AOL customers unhappy, then they should change ISP. We're providing a service, but the goodwill it garners is only worth so much when the issues of dealing with AOL become too expensive. People like our products and seem to come back whether or not they get the mailing list stuff from us that they've requested. We've been through the process of getting unblocked twice, but it seems to take up a month. The third time we were blocked we said fuckit (or words to that affect).

Now lets talk about Yahoo. They seem to have faulty logic somewhere. I have a Yahoo account and find a lot of false-positives. As far as our mailing list goes, on one occasion we ended up being filtered to their bulk folder... which can be a lot harder to notice than being completely blocked.

Let your users know (1)

sirdude (578412) | about 10 years ago | (#8664192)

How about letting the recipients of your emails know that they have subscribed to this. If need be put this line right at the top of hte email.. Alternatively add this to the subject.. something along the lines of :
[{companyname} subscribed newsletter]

Try to make it obvious for them, and similarly for the AOL "minder" who checks them.

asdf (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8664198)


A human is a lousy spam filter (3, Interesting)

titaniam (635291) | about 10 years ago | (#8664206)

When I realized over a year ago that spam was starting to be a huge headache for me, I started saving all my spam and good mail to separate directories, in preparation for using a Bayesian filter. At that time I was getting 20 per day, now I get 350, of which a few make it to my inbox. Anyway, I read Paul Graham's plan for spam and decided to write my own filter, and built in a feature where it would check my classification. Lo and behold, about 5% of the mail I classified was identified by my filter as being incorrectly classified. The filter was correct in almost all cases - I was either misinterpreting the emails or ending up saving them to the wrong directories after correctly categorizing them. Now, whenever someone wants to use my filter, I first require them to classify by hand all their mail for a few weeks. Once they run my program they are amazed - they can't believe they made so many mistakes, and they are instant believers in the power of Bayesian filters. My point is that in implementing these spam reports, the ISPs MUST take human error into account, and only penalize mass-senders if over (roughly) 5% of a given sender's recipients complains.

Just don't send email to AOL users (2, Insightful)

autopr0n (534291) | about 10 years ago | (#8664218)

Simple solution, don't send email to AOL users unless it's critical. Sure, they may have 'agreed' to recive it, but do they really need your newsletter or whatever? My guess is that they don't.

If you have a web service, set things up so that users are notified about messages when they log on. If they are not AOL users, then also mail them.

Simple solution. Honestly I'd much prefer if all of the mail in my mailbox was from individuals who actualy wanted to say something to me personaly.

Re:Just don't send email to AOL users (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8664294)

Honestly I'd much prefer if all of the mail in my mailbox was from individuals who actualy wanted to say something to me personally.

... or send you porn.

Catch-22 (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8664231)

Like most folks, you have to target Windows users, since that is where 90% [for example] [google.com] of your audience is.

On the other hand, you might want to ignore AOL users as clueless and so, who cares about them.

However, if you are selling something, these are just the suckers you might want.

what to do, what to do...

Simple solution (1)

buss_error (142273) | about 10 years ago | (#8664233)

The only problem is, we have found that most of the time the AOL users are reporting our email as spam on accident!

Quit sending AOL accounts email. Tell them that the daily/weekly/monthly newsletter is on the web site, they want to read it, vist the site.

Simple, no?

Issues with AOL and email (3, Informative)

baddogatl (164976) | about 10 years ago | (#8664268)

I had a problem with a customer who wanted all of his email to be forwarded to his AOL account and then repeatedly marked it all as spam without notifying us that there was a problem.

The result: our server was blocked as a spam relay.

AOL helped correct this quickly, but when I emailed the customer to let him know what happened he flagged my emails as spam and our servers were blocked again!

Our customer wasn't returning calls so I disabled his account. After that he was very willing to contact me to speak about things :)

Get a clue (-1)

duffbeer703 (177751) | about 10 years ago | (#8664286)

While your "newsletters" or "weekly updates" are technically not spam, nobody wants them!

The "dumb AOL users" are sick of your shit littering their inboxes -- so stop sending it!

What you should be taking away from this is that 1/5 of your "customers" do not want your communications.

Small lists too... (5, Interesting)

dcigary (221160) | about 10 years ago | (#8664287)

I run a small (~200 user) mailing list for my homeowner's association, and I've been fighting the AOL Spam filters for years. From what I can tell, the process of notifying AOL that your email is indeed something that users have signed up for and WANT is near impossible. I'm almost to the point of telling the HOA that we can't accept AOL accounts any more, as nothing gets through. I've also had the same experience with Time Warner Roadrunner, EarthLink and others as well... What I find MOST disturbing is that on AOL the user NEVER receives the email, nor a notification that something was rejected. Ignorance is bliss as far as AOL is concerned, and they like keeping their users in the dark.

Users agreed to receive? (1, Interesting)

ect5150 (700619) | about 10 years ago | (#8664305)

I don't know about the rest of you, but I get plenty of emails that I have never agreed to receive, regardless of what the company says. Could it be that if they are reporting it as spam that they don't want your emails? It could be that the users are stupid, but in this day and age, given our spam problems, telling the company you don't want spam seems to only give a verification that you use that email address (thus you get more spam). So it could be that they are taking the easy route. They let some filter catch it.

The answer is to NOT deal with AOL (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8664313)

I have told several users that AOL takes actions that are unique to AOL which suggest they consider themselves to be an AOL Service Provider (ASP) and is *NOT* an ISP. As such, the user needs to subscribe to something that more closely fits the defination of an ISP.

Some key areas that AOL differs from an ISP include:

- an ISP will look up in whois a technical contact to send a SPAM report to
- AOL ignores the whois database and requires the user to subscribe to AOL's "postmaster" site
- ISPs will take reports that go to either postmaster@ISP or abuse@ISP seriously
- AOL ignores email to postmaster@aol.com and abuse@aol.com in favor of a non-standard tosemail1
- If an ISP continues to be issuing SPAM, they will usually be willing to discuss the problem by phone with the reciever of the SPAM
- AOL will only discuss issues with the reciever of SPAM if they have an AOL screen name
- ISPs consider it a problem if they are sending SPAM just as much as it is a problem if they are recieving SPAM
- AOL does not consider it their problem when they issue SPAM but do complain that recieving SPAM is costing them alot of money
- ISPs will usually require account holders to provide credit card information or some other form of information making them aware of who you are and that they haven't already had problems with you
- AOL prides itself on providing throw away accounts with lot of free hours and no longer require a credit card

The bottom line is that AOL is a safe haven for SPAM to be issued from but AOL is quick to complain when they are getting the same crap that they dish out to the Internet. If AOL 9.0 makes it easier for AOL to blackhole itself then more power to them. Just warn everyone of the blackhole that AOL has decided to put itself into rather than trying to slow down the progress of the blackhole by "supporting" an organization that considers itself above being supported.

Save their agreement (1)

azav (469988) | about 10 years ago | (#8664322)

Of course, you must save the user's most recent record of agreeing to receive email from you and submit that to AOL to refute their report.

AOL is unaccountable for blocking (4, Interesting)

eggboard (315140) | about 10 years ago | (#8664339)

It's one thing to run aggressive spam reporting filters. It's another to have no procedure that can get you out of the doghouse. My father and I run a very very small commercial service for monitoring the rank of various books at Amazon that's sold to authors. They pay for the service. It's double opt-in. We keep records of each sign-up and each opt-in confirmation, as well as payment records.

AOL banned our URL but not our email. The error said the URL in our messages couldn't be sent to AOL addresses. We contacted our three (yes, just three) AOL subscribers and asked them to try to use AOL's tools to make sure our email went through, but they didn't have any options that helped.

I contacted AOL, spoke to a guy who believed what I had to say, and I sent email including a variety of details to a Yahoo (ironic) address that they obvious use for disposable purposes and change from time to time. No response. A week later, I email there again as a follow-up. No response.

So what are we to do? Convince AOL subscribers to switch to another ISP? Nope.

This drives me, and my customers nuts (5, Interesting)

Bug-Y2K (126658) | about 10 years ago | (#8664355)

I work for a colo/hosting outfit. I also read the "abuse@*" address here. I found out about this system at AOL back in November, and spent a few weeks working my way through the postmaster group at AOL. I finally did get a really clued guy, who did a lot to help out... however, the system is so completely flawed that there isn't much that can be done to fix it.

Easily 98% of their reported "spams" are false positives. I've collected the 10,000 or so rejected mails and They break down like this:

40% are auto-mails from some website notification system
(example: one of our clients is an "aprtment finding service" that you sign up and I assume pay for. It notifies you if an apartment that meets your needs becomes available, via email.)
30% are mailing list traffic
10% are confirmation emails for ecommerce purchases!
10% are *personal correspondence!*
8% are actual spam, but being legitimately forwarded to an AOL address via a domain hosted by us, but whose user has configured it to forward to an AOL address.
2% is who knows what.

To have a system that fundamentally flawed is amazing. I don't use AOL... in fact I've never even seen what it looks like, so I don't know if this is *user* generated or auto-generated, but I do know it just doesn't work.

do what i do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8664401)

I block ALL mail that is going to/from AOL addresses. Makes things so much simpler to deal with. (It helps a lot when the IQ of a user is > age of user....)

My bitch about AOL (4, Interesting)

DarkHelmet (120004) | about 10 years ago | (#8664410)

Ah God... AOL is a complete and total bitch when it comes to detecting spam.

My project Slashster, being a Friendster clone per se, sends out email recommendations from people on the site to others inviting them to join the site.

I found with Yahoo and Hotmail, that typically altering the email message not to include any sort of links (other than possibly slashster.com without the http://), typically allows the message to go through the filter. After all, most spam messages include some kind of tracking url in order to show where they came from. Right?

Not so with AOL. Pretty much any sort of attempt I do of sending an email through it have it flag up as spam. I suppose what happened was that someone hit the spam button for my site, and it was blacklisted.

It is possible to get whitelisted though. But you have to contact AOL in order to be part of the whitelist. You also need to fill out an application saying how many emails you plan on sending out a day, whatnot.

What kind of crap is this? I mean, they don't actually expect us to fill out an application for EVERY ISP out there that wants to lower spam. Ugh. Do I have to honestly write Hotmail, Yahoo, Earthlink, AOL, Adelphia, Comcast, and every other ISP / email provider out there to say "Hey, I'm not spam. Don't block me." or is there a better way? I doubt there's anything better.

It gets on my nerves, especially considering that I've started receiving mass emails from people who have invited me to Orkut. I haven't even joined that site yet, and of course, any sort of message from them does *NOT* show up as spam... Figures.

Note: I know some of you saying that sending Social Networking emails would be considered spam. I'm not sure if it could, after all, it's not the same email sent out to thousands of people. It's rather, one person sending another person a message, through my server. I know some of you will disagree, but eh.

AOL security (1, Troll)

humankind (704050) | about 10 years ago | (#8664431)

I spoke with the head of AOL's security/IT system. Let me tell you they analyze EVERY e-mail that goes through their system. They look at all the popular RBLs and if you use *certain* politically-incorrect words in your e-mails, they flag the messages for further review. I am unaware of any system on the planet that is more thorough (or privacy-invading) than AOL. Don't let them fool you - their system is the focal point, probably, for a huge amount of intelligence-gathering efforts.

i have a hard time feeling sorry for you.. (0, Flamebait)

Suppafly (179830) | about 10 years ago | (#8664442)

If a large amount of your mailings are "mistaken" as spam, they probably are spam.

Some Practical Advice (3, Insightful)

ErichTheWebGuy (745925) | about 10 years ago | (#8664457)

I have had my mail servers IPs blocked 4 times by AOL. Every time, it was because some of our franchisees or other legitimate business contacts have falsely reported our mail as spam.

The best thing you can do is to call the postmaster number, remain calm, and be patient with the person on the other end. Also, send out reminders to your members or whatever that if they report your legit mailings as spam, they will be missing out on important announcements etc.

It is important to remember that you are dealing with AOL and AOL members, so it is necessary to use 1-2 syllable words and speak slowly, often repeating complex concepts like 'Delete' vs. 'Report Spam'. Given time, the problem eases up a bit, but will never go away as long as AOL has this system in place.

Affecting my university (3, Insightful)

m3000 (46427) | about 10 years ago | (#8664461)

The school I'm going to, University of Florida [ufl.edu] has been having it's headaches with spam for this same reason. It sends out a weekly newsletter about what is going on in the university, important dates, events, that kind of thing. It's sent out to everyone's university appointed email address (foobar@ufl.edu) but people can then have that forwarded to their AOL address.

Now some people don't like this weekly thing (which is somewhat important so students get needed information, but whatever. When you're a student here, you get the email.), and so they mark it as spam when they get it, or else they do the accidental spam report thing. AOL then sees all these "spam" mail coming from ufl.edu addresses, and promptly blocks ALL email from any ufl.edu address. This has happened 3 times now, and each time the university system adminstrator has had to go through a ton of hoops to get it back in the clear. Meanwhile everyone using an AOL account doesn't get teacher emails, club announcements that they signed up for, and any sort of personal mail that someone sends from their ufl.edu account.

Hopefully AOL will get it's act together. In the meantime they're trying to get people to stop having their mail forwarded to AOL accounts, but of course even college educated people want to use AOL, for whatever god forsaken reason.
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