Censored by AOL!

On Wednesday morning, December 28, 2005, I found that both my email account, [email protected], and my IP number had been blocked by AOL.

It started out innocently enough:

Date: Wed, 28 Dec 2005 14:01:55 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: letters
From: "Orange" 
To: [email protected]

> how do we submit a letter
You just did.
Really, all kidding aside, you just email your letter to
this address.
Have a good day.

*               Agent Orange              *
*          [email protected]       *
*      AA and Recovery Cult Debunking     *
*      https://www.orange-papers.info/      *
** Foisting ineffective quack medicine on sick people is not
** a wonderful noble act of self-sacrifice to help others;
** it is the reprehensible behavior of a damned fool.

That letter immediately bounced back to me with an error message:

This message was created automatically by mail delivery software.

A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its
recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed:

  [email protected] 
    SMTP error from remote mail server after initial connection:
    host mailin-01.mx.aol.com []: 554 (RLY:B2)

I looked up that error message at the AOL URL, and it said:

Error RLY:B2

This error message indicates that a block has been placed against your IP address because we have received numerous complaints concerning mail coming from that IP address.

Please have your ISP or server administrator contact AOL for assistance. The mail administrator should request a feedback loop that will alert them to reported spam from their network. You can access the Feedback Loop request form here.

If you need additional information please Contact Us.

I wrote a letter to AOL, explaining the situation, and that immediately bounced back too. I'm not even allowed to send an email to the postmaster:

From: "Orange" <[email protected]>
Subject: improperly blocked email
Date: Wed, December 28, 2005 14:32
To: [email protected]

Dear Webmaster or Postmaster:

I just received a letter from one of your members, and answered it, and when I did, I was informed that the letter had been rejected. I traced down the meaning of the error code, RLY:B2, and your web site informs me that my email account has been blocked from sending email to AOL members, allegedly "because we have received numerous complaints concerning mail coming from that IP address."

I have never spammed anyone on AOL, or even written much to anyone there, except for answering letters that come to my web site.

I run an anti-cult and anti-Alcoholics Anonymous web site, which the more cultish A.A. members hate. Undoubtedly, some of them have written complaints to you, falsely claiming that I have committed some kind of offense.

Not so.

They are merely trying to sabotage freedom of speech, and squelch dissenting voices.

Please look into this matter so that I can answer questions and pleas for help from your members.

I shall also post this letter to the letters section of my web site, here: https://www.orange-papers.info/orange-letters32.html

Have a good day.

The bounced letter in question is copied below.

*               Agent Orange              *
*          [email protected]       *
*      AA and Recovery Cult Debunking     *
*      https://www.orange-papers.info/      *
** Foisting ineffective quack medicine on sick people is not
** a wonderful noble act of self-sacrifice to help others;
** it is the reprehensible behavior of a damned fool.

And I got the same error message back: RLY:B2

You can't talk to the webmaster when you are blocked.

So I went to my alternate email address, [email protected] — Google mail — which I mostly use for posting to newsgroups and other random junk, and sent a message to the AOL postmaster from there.

It also immediately bounced with another error code: HVU:B1

Error 554 HVU:B1

There is at least one URL in your email that is generating substantial complaints from AOL members.

If you own all the domains linked to in your e-mail, please contact us to discuss more effective management of your complaint levels. You can start by setting up a free complaint loop through this form. This will allow you to receive AOL member complaints against your domain.

If you do not own the domain, please have the owner of that domain contact us.

Isn't that just a little bit arrogant and condescending, coming from a brain-damaged corporation that destroyed the value of TIME/Warner stock? Maybe they should learn to manage their own complaint levels.

I contacted a friend who isn't blocked, and sent everything to him, and asked him to forward the letters to the postmaster at AOL.

Date: Dec 28, 2005 1:44 PM
Subject: New hassles with being censored

Hi Douglas,

I could use your help on this.

In trying to answer email to my web site, I discovered that my email addresses had been blocked by AOL. Both of them:
[email protected]
[email protected]

This has been happening for a while, but I didn't realize that it was more than a matter of bad email addresses when email got returned, until today.

I looked up the error codes in the returned email, and got this:
Error 554 HVU:B1
There is at least one URL in your email that is generating substantial complaints from AOL members.

Error RLY:B2
This error message indicates that a block has been placed against your IP address because we have received numerous complaints concerning mail coming from that IP address.

Some more Steppers have undoubtedly been slandering and libeling me again, this time to AOL.
They gang up and send a whole lot of complaints about how "offended" they are that somebody would dare to tell the truth about their cult.

I have tried to email the AOL postmaster to tell him about this problem, but even that email is blocked.

So I need you to forward this letter and all attachments to: [email protected]

The attachments are blocked letters between me and correspondents to my web site, and also the blocked letters of complaint to AOL.

Oh, and please ask AOL to keep the identities of their clients in these email attachments confidential, as I am sure they usually do.

AOL should consider this a matter of counseling about drug and alcohol problems, and as such this matter should be treated with the strictest confidentiality.

And since it is also a matter of health and counseling, and extending free help to those who still suffer, I am sure that AOL does not wish to be guilty of causing relapses or deaths of AOL members by preventing them from getting advice and help.

So I am sure that AOL will look into this matter very, very promptly, like today, before somebody relapses for New Years.


*               Agent Orange              *
*          [email protected]       *
*      AA and Recovery Cult Debunking     *
*      https://www.orange-papers.info/      *
** Foisting ineffective quack medicine on sick people is not
** a wonderful noble act of self-sacrifice to help others;
** it is the reprehensible behavior of a damned fool.

And that's where it's at, as of 17:04 PM PST 28 Dec 2005.

It gradually occurred to me that I had been getting some returned email for a while now, months, but I had mistakenly assumed that it was just email with bad addresses, and didn't give it a second thought. Now I think that AOL members have been prevented from getting answers for a while now.

So if you are using AOL, and you emailed me in the last month or two and didn't get an answer, you can probably thank AOL for not letting you get your email. I try to answer ALL email.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

— "Secret Agent" Orange

P.S.: All kinds of things occur to my devious little mind, like that you readers who are on AOL can threaten to launch a class-action lawsuit, complaining that AOL is preventing you from receiving life-saving counseling from an old recovered alcoholic and drug user who can teach people how to break out of their addictions and stay clean and sober for 5 years.

That makes AOL financially liable for any damages or deaths that happen to AOL members from drug or alcohol problems while they are cut off from the help and aid of their counselor. Theoretically, you can make AOL pay for your suffering.

Guess what is only 3 days away? New Years! Do you know how many people relapse during New Years?

Somebody could retire rich off of this one.

Join the Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign
Join the Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign!

Just to do a reality check, I contacted my ISP and asked him if there was a problem with a spammer. He answered that nobody was spamming from his machines. Then he contacted his own ISP, one tier up the pyramid of servers. He got the answer that someone had compromised one of his user accounts and had sent out a batch of spam, and that AOL had immediately black-listed his IP number, and he was working with AOL to get off of the black-list.

My ISP subcontracts out a lot of the technical work of being an ISP. One of the things that he subs out is the email server. All email from my domain goes through the ISP of my ISP. So when AOL blocked the IP number of the ISP of my ISP, they also blocked my email.

But that does not explain how AOL blocked all email from my Google email account. There is no connection between Google and my Orange-Papers.Org domain, other than that I use the same signature on email from both accounts.

UPDATE: Jan 5, 2006:

I posted this story to a few newsgroups, and got this response:

John K. wrote:
>> "Ahhh, the paranoia. ...
>> "You should probably spend a little time
>> learning how the Net works. ... When you
>> send an E-mail, or post to a newsgroup,
>> the message arives with the IP address
>> of YOUR computer. ...
>> I seriously doubt that ANYBODY thinks
>> that you and your website are important
>> enough to go to the trouble of blocking.
...To which I answered:

Maybe you should put your condescending attitude and your "serious doubts" back in your toolbox. I've been a professional programmer for 27 years, so I do have some idea of how the Internet works.

What you don't know is that my web site is hosted on machines many hundreds of miles away from here. If you are looking at the headers of newsgroup postings when I post to newsgroups through Google, what you are seeing is the IP number of the free WiFi node across the street, which does eventually connect to Qwest.

But that has nothing to do with the mail server at my web site's host, which I use for email to and from the web site. I access that email program through HTTP, and the resulting email gets the IP number of the ISP's mail server — specifically, he says that it gets the IP number of his eth0 port through which the email leaves his machine.

In other words, I have two different email accounts, with different IP numbers, which is what I just said in the previous message. Please learn to read.

The email that I send out cannot possibly have my own machines' IP numbers attached to it, because I have home-made IP numbers in a local area network. They are in the 192.168.x.x block, which are never transmitted to the Internet. (And I have several machines, and I email from more than one of them.) And I never use an actual mailer program on my machines because it will not work with my home-made IP numbers. I always have to access an HTTP-based email program like Squirrel or Google mail that is on somebody else's machine.

Then those messages and datagrams go through my gateway machine that acts as a firewall and does NAT (Name/Address Translation), which changes my own home-made IP numbers into the temporary number assigned by the WiFi node with DHCP.

The WiFi node across the street also uses LAN numbers, but in the 10.x.x.x range, which are also never transmitted over the Internet. That machine then connects to another network that also has numbers in the 192.168.x.x range, but with different network numbers than mine. Finally, that network connects to Qwest. The first real IP number that you will find in the whole chain of machines belongs to Qwest, and that number is shared by a whole lot of people.

My Orange-Papers.Org email addresses are blocked by AOL, as are all other email addresses originating at my ISP, and his ISP. My ISP says that they are blocked, and AOL says that they are blocked.

And so is my Google email account, which has nothing to do with my ISP or his IP numbers.

Now why would AOL go and block my Google email address when they are ostensibly concerned about some spam that came from my ISP's machine? (Actually, from an account on a machine belonging to the ISP of my ISP.) What does the one have to do with the other?

And how does AOL figure out where you have an alternate email account? We are talking about people who are not even customers of AOL. How does AOL figure out that you might have an alternate email account on Google or Yahoo or Hotmail?

Or does AOL just read all of the email going to their customers, looking at signatures, snooping for banned URLs?

There is no doubt that they are figuring it out, because their error message in blocking my Google mail says that they are doing it:

"Error 554 HVU:B1"
"There is at least one URL in your email that is generating substantial complaints from AOL members."

Oh really? How do they know what URLs are in anybody's email?

And what is "substantial complaints"? In AOL-speak, it means that 3 people complained about your web site.

Mind you, that error message was returned the very first time I tried to email from Google to an AOL customer. The very first time. That Google email address is relatively new, and I only use it for posting to newsgroups (now known as Google Groups), and receiving junk mail and for talking to a couple of friends, so I know to whom I have sent email from that account. Besides, Google gives you 2 gigabytes of storage and encourages you to never delete anything, so I have all of my sent mail. So I know that I had not sent any email to anybody on AOL before from that account.

So you tell me: How did AOL decide that they want to block my email from Google, just because they are mad at the ISP of my ISP, who is over in another state?

And if you want to conduct an interesting experiment, why don't you cut and paste my signature below onto the tail end of a letter that you send to one of your friends who is on AOL, and see if your letter gets there or gets blocked and returned to you with that error code?

Especially try that experiment from a throw-away email account like on Yahoo or Hotmail.

Oh, and especially try to email one of my web pages to somebody on AOL as an attachment. That is a sure-fire rejection, because each of my pages contains the forbidden orange-papers.info URL.

Try sending the jokes page to friends on AOL. That's a short page, and entertaining if it gets through. You can download it to your computer, and then send it as an attachment to an email.

Have a good day. Try that experiment and get enlightened.

*               Agent Orange              *
*          [email protected]       *
*      AA and Recovery Cult Debunking     *
*      https://www.orange-papers.info/      *
** Rev. Jim Jones said, "Drink the red koolaid. It
** has cured millions. RARELY HAVE we seen it fail...
** But then again, the green koolaid is good too.
** Take what you want, and leave the rest."

5 January 2006:

I followed my own advice, and tried that experiment. I found that I could sneak in a message from Google mail to AOL if I erased the signature, and sent a letter that didn't say that it had any connection to Orange-Papers.Org.

And I could sometimes get in a letter with a signature. Sometimes, it seemed. Sometimes the message was returned with the error code that said that the letter contained a forbidden URL, and sometimes I don't know if the message got delivered, or just vanished into a black hole.

But trying to send a short web page as an attachment, like an answer to somebody's letter to me, was a guaranteed rejection, because all of those pages contain the forbidden Orange-Papers.Org URL.

I went to another public mail service, which shall remain unnamed, and tried the same experiment from there. The results were the same there.

Does somebody who is on AOL want to volunteer to partipate in further experiments where I will see what I can send through and what gets rejected, and you can tell me what you get?

Okay, somebody volunteered, and we discovered that on January 15, 2006, AOL suddenly silently lifted the blocks, without a word of explanation or apology.

But the fact remains that AOL is reading their customers' email, and rejecting what they don't like.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

UPDATE: 2014.02.13:

At 3:34 AM, I heard National Public Radio News say that the TIME — AOL merger was considered the worst corporate merger in history.

No joke. AOL just destroyed the value of TIME stock. TIME Inc. was actually worth less after the merger than before, which means that AOL had negative value. TIME paid billions of dollars for something that turned out to be worth less than zero.

I could have told them that just from my own experiences with AOL.

Oh well, AOL is fading fast and will soon be a forgotten footnote in history. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Have a good day now.

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Last updated 13 February 2014.
The most recent version of this file can be found at https://www.orange-papers.info/orange-censored2.html