For Immediate Release January 26, 1998
Cagey Consumer, a web site designed to educate the public about fraudulent and deceptive businesses practices, today inducted America Online into its Hall of Shame.
Because online services like Prodigy, America Online, and Compuserve market their services to the general public, they have sometimes perceived it to be necessary to place limitations on the content that members may make available in public places such as forums, chat rooms, and web pages. To become aware of objectionable materials, such online service providers rely primarily on reports by members of offending material, which is apparently what happened to the web page of one America Online member whose web page described personal experiences with a variety of work-at-home schemes.
According to Cagey Consumer publisher Eli Mantel, Joanne's Work-at-Home Page (http://members.aol.com/joannens/homeinfo.html) contained personal experiences of a variety of programs that consisted largely of scams, many of which are still in operation. Anyone taking the time to read through all of the experiences that Joanne reported would be extremely wary of any of the programs mentioned or of similar programs, which may have made life difficult for a few AOL members who were promoting these scams, hoping to find new victims. It's likely that AOL members participating in these scams had asked AOL to remove Joanne's page, claiming it was defamatory.
Unfortunately, AOL complied.
AOL sent Joanne the following notice:
We have become aware of a web page that is part of your account. Certain portions of these pages violate our Terms of Service (which prohibit harassment, the use of vulgar or sexually oriented language, discussion of illegal activities, and other activities that may impair the enjoyment of our members).Had AOL notified Joanne prior to removing her web page, she could have moved it to another web host, but instead, they removed it immediately, and so far, AOL has refused to make the content of Joanne's web page available to her. (Joanne had evidently not considered the possibility that AOL would deprive her of her own files, and thus had not bothered to save a copy on her own computer.)