by A. Orange
On Wednesday morning, December 28, 2005, I found that both my email account, email@example.com, and my IP number had been blocked by AOL.
It started out innocently enough:
That letter immediately bounced back to me with an error message:
I looked up that error message at the AOL URL, and it said:
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:
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, firstname.lastname@example.org — 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
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.
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
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!
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.
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"
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.org 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.
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@example.com * * AA and Recovery Cult Debunking * * http://www.orange-papers.org/ * ** 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."
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?
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.
Last updated 18 June 2009.
Copyright © 2013, A. Orange