AOL Hails “Breakthrough” Against Spam

AOL said yesterday that it turned the corner in its fight against spam, recording 75 percent fewer customer spam complaints in 2004 compared to a year earlier.

The Internet service provider also reported that members hit the “report spam” button 2.2 million times in November 2004, compared to 11 million times in November 2003.

AOL attributed the declines to more potent spam-filtering technology and enforcement actions taken on the federal level under the CAN-SPAM Act, and state laws such as those AOL supported in Virginia, Ohio and Maryland.

“Eliminating spam is a little like seeking to eliminate taxes and colds,” said AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham. “You can get less of them, but it is going to exist. We think we are taming the beast.”

In an encouraging sign that the spam surge is abating, AOL blocked fewer e-mail messages, even as spam reports declined. The average daily amount of e-mails blocked by AOL's anti-spam filters fell from about 2.4 billion in 2003 to 1.2 billion in 2004. Likewise, the amount of e-mail sent to AOL users fell from 2.1 billion in November 2003 to 1.6 billion in November 2004.

“We anticipate this is sustainable for 2005,” Graham said.

Graham said the e-mail authentication technologies, including SPF and Sender ID, would play a larger role in reducing spam in 2005. AOL has tested SPF for incoming e-mail during the past year. Graham said it would begin checking all inbound e-mail for SPF records in early 2005.

It is unclear whether AOL's strides in combating spam are an industry trend or individual success. Postini, which filters 2.4 billion e-mail messages per week for customers, recently reported that it saw spam rise in the past year. It filtered 78 percent of e-mail in 2003 compared to 88 percent in 2004. The Redwood City, CA, firm forecasts its service will block 92 percent of incoming e-mail in 2005.

Brian Morrissey covers e-mail marketing for DM To keep up with the latest e-mail marketing news subscribe to our free e-mail weekly newsletter E-Mail Marketing Daily by visiting

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