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You've Got Hate Mail

Any issue that brings Red Staters and Blue Staters together must be worth thinking about. So we can thank AOL for sparking an unusual coalition of gun owners, liberal activists, Christian organizations, environmentalists and others. These disparate groups have joined forces to protest AOL's new Certified E-Mail program, which lets commercial mailers pay up to one penny per e-mail to bypass AOL's spam filters and get guaranteed delivery into users' inboxes.

The DearAOL coalition unites more than 500 diverse organizations that believe the program will penalize nonprofits, charities and civic groups that can't afford to pony up for guaranteed delivery.

DearAOL's protest taps into fears over the loss of network neutrality, whereby large network operators charge premiums for particular types of content or exercise control over services running across their backbones.

However, both AOL and the coalition are guilty of exaggeration. AOL argues that Certified E-Mail will help fight spam, but the system does nothing to address common spam sources and will not deter bulk mailers from attempting to thwart spam filters. It may help reduce the impact of phishing scams, but only for those organizations that pay to get their e-mail communications certified.

Meanwhile, DearAOL charges that Certified E-Mail could undermine the very freedom of the Internet. Such hyperbole dilutes the legitimacy of its concerns.

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