Suicides rescue 

You’ve read America Online’s all-powerful Terms of Service, right? All 16 pages of them? Aw, don’t be embarrassed – we’ve reviewed them for you, and here’s a brief excerpt: Although AOL warns that your language in chat rooms and message boards will be watched – and censored, if necessary – they also repeatedly state that incoming and outgoing Internet mail is entirely private. Why, then, has AOL seemed to be blocking news from local punk rock heroes the Suicide Machines?

About 12,000 fans have signed up for the band’s electronic newsletter on the Machines’ Web site. The bulletins are sent out eight to 10 times a year, with updates on the national Warped Tour (starting this Friday), new songs, giveaways and the like. But last fall, the Suicide Machines’ management company started receiving messages asking when the newsletters would begin – and everyone who was complaining had an AOL address.

When Beth Milosevich of Eternal Artists realized that almost 4,000 fans weren’t receiving e-mail messages they’d specifically requested, she and Stirling Bridge Group (the band’s Web site designer-host) repeatedly contacted AOL customer service for help. At one point, someone from AOL admitted the word "suicide" may have sent up a red flag with its censors, but when Eternal slyly sent its most recent newsletter from a band called the "Sue-A-Side Machines," it still didn’t go through.

So are personal e-mail messages really exempt from screening or censorship? Do giant-sized ISPs really care about the needs of individual customers? After six months had passed without any real response from AOL, Eternal Artists wondered if it would ever receive any answers. So the Metro Times decided to do a little investigating of its own. When we contacted the Internet monolith, we frankly expected more of the same corporate apathy. Imagine our surprise when we spoke to Rich D’Amato of AOL’s press department, a friendly guy who seemed sincere in his promise to help. D’Amato said the company enforces a "vigorous anti-spam policy," assuring us that didn’t mean the Suicide Machines’ mail was junk, but admitting that AOL’s mass-mailing and spam filters were probably to blame for the delivery failure. At press time D’Amato was working to hook up the band’s management company with AOL’s top e-mail guru so they could find a mutually agreeable method of delivery that would work within AOL’s system.

In the meantime, Suicide Machines fans can log onto the band’s Web site for all the latest, and you can place a Suicide watch on this column for confirmation of a legitimate happy ending.

Karen Fisher is the MT information coordinator. E-mail her at kjfisher@metrotimes.com

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