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Schumer Asks Aol To Stop Treating 9/11 Victim Families Mailing Lists Like Spam

9/11 Family Group Leader Bill Doyle from Staten Island had his AOL account suspended this week; AOL computers automatically categorized him as a Spammer because over 3,000 families have asked to be put on his email distribution lists

Schumer a leading anti-spam advocate in Congress asks AOL to fix problem and let key forum for 9/11 families continue operating

US Senator Charles E. Schumer today asked America Online to find a solution to ensure that a Staten Island 9/11 father can continue to use his AOL account to send emails to other 9/11 families. Because he was sending emails to so many 9/11 families that have asked to be placed on his distribution lists, AOL computers automatically flagged him as a spammer. Schumer, the leading antispam advocate in Congress, said that AOL should be commended for their strong policies and procedures to fight spam, but this case needs special attention so that 9/11 victims families can continue to get the information they need from each other.

"AOL is one of the companies leading the way to clamp down and rub out spammers, but like every system sometimes people fall through the cracks," Schumer said. "I believe in my heart AOL wants to do the right thing for Bill Doyle, who overcame his personal pain after the terrorists murdered his son and to give back to thousands of others who are in the same situation."

Bill Doyle of Staten Island lost his son Joey Doyle, who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, on September 11. Mr. Doyle is on the board of several 9/11 victim family groups, and has become a oneperson resource center for 9/11 victims and families. Shortly after 9/11, Mr. Doyle began sharing information about social service providers, legal resources, filing deadlines, 9/11 familysupport groups, family gatherings, trips to Washington and elsewhere, and scholarships for children who lost family on 9/11 through emails from his AOL account. His mailings quickly became widely popular over 3,200 people have asked to be put on his lists.

Mr. Doyle has used AOL as his Internet Service Provider since he began his work for the families of 9/11. This week, Mr. Doyle's account was suspended by AOL. AOL employees told Mr. Doyle that his account had been flagged because of the volume of emails being sent and that AOL suspected he was a spammer. After Mr. Doyle explained his work, AOL agreed that he was not a spammer and that he would be put on AOL's "white list" of senders whose email would be cleared through AOL's system.

The following day, when Mr. Doyle had not been notified that he could resume sending information to the families, Schumer staff contacted AOL to inquire about the status of his service. AOL officials explained that Mr. Doyle was now on the white list, but that was only a temporary solution and would not truly serve his needs because it would require him to send mail to the families in groups instead of all at once. If even less that one percent of the recipients' email systems classify Mr. Doyle's mail as spam, that is still enough to raise an automatic red flag at AOL.

Schumer today wrote to AOL Chairman and CEO Jonathan Miller, asking him to fix Mr. Doyle's problem and find a way to allow him to continue to send the messages that so many families have come to rely on.

"Mr. Doyle is a critical source of information for family members of those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Many of them have contacted him by phone this week, asking him why they have not been receiving his email information. I am hopeful that we can work to find a solution that meets the needs of Mr. Doyle and the families of 9/11 who rely the information Mr. Doyle sends," Schumer wrote to Miller.

Email spam is any form of unsolicited email that users receive from commercial sources. The most common forms of spam include advertisements for online gambling services, pornography, herbal remedies or financial schemes, many of which are fraudulent in nature.

In December, President Bush signed antispam legislation authorizing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create a nospam email registry modeled after US Senator Charles E. Schumer's legislation. Schumer's registry bill was included in the CAN SPAM bill that also imposes criminal penalties and fines on repeat spammers. Schumer's program requires the FTC to deliver a plan to Congress for creating a nospam registry within six months and authorizes it to implement the plan within nine months.