WTF AOL? Stripping URL's from Metafilter? June 20, 2005 9:10 AM   Subscribe

This is bizarre. A person claims they sent an email with a link to a MeFi discussion over AOL's email system and the mefi link was removed and replaced with an error URL. The error page states "There is at least one URL in your email that is generating substantial complaints from AOL members."

Anyone got AOL and can test this by sending a mefi link to another AOL member? It sounds too weird to be true.
posted by mathowie to MetaFilter-Related at 9:10 AM (57 comments total)

I tried it by sending it from one AOL account I have to another and it was received w/o incident. I pasted the url in the email subject line and body. Was it a particular MeFi url?
posted by mlis at 9:24 AM on June 20, 2005


Looks like this is part of AOL's spam fighting strategery (emphasis mine):
EXPLANATION:

There is at least one URL in your email that is generating substantial complaints from AOL members.

SOLUTION:

If you own all the domains linked to in your e-mail, please contact us to discuss more effective management of your complaint levels. You can start by setting up a free complaint loop through this form. This will allow you to receive AOL member complaints against your domain.

If you do not own the domain, please have the owner of that domain contact us.
Why AOLers complained about Mefi and NASA is anybody's guess. Clueless? Anti-science? Who knows.

MLIS: Try sending the url in an email from outside AOL to an AOL address.
posted by orthogonality at 9:29 AM on June 20, 2005


They told me they sent the link of the low moon discussion to a friend when they got the error.

It was probably just user error, like a malformed URL that AOL gave a weird error to. Thanks.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:30 AM on June 20, 2005


My hunch...the person at bugsmom typed the url in incorrectly.
posted by iconomy at 9:31 AM on June 20, 2005


Or...what you said.
posted by iconomy at 9:31 AM on June 20, 2005


MLIS, can you also try sending from AOL to an outsider like me? I'm my username here at gmail.com.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:32 AM on June 20, 2005


Done.
posted by mlis at 9:36 AM on June 20, 2005


I'm guessing most of the complaints were registered by farkers.
posted by Doohickie at 9:38 AM on June 20, 2005


I sent an email from gmail to AOL with www.metafilter.com in the Subject line and body and received the following rejection message:

This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification

Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:

[my AOL account]

Technical details of permanent failure:
PERM_FAILURE: SMTP Error (state 13): 554-: (HVU:B1) http://postmaster.info.aol.com/errors/554hvub1.html
554 TRANSACTION FAILED


The postmaster url is the same message that ortho posted above.
posted by mlis at 9:48 AM on June 20, 2005


Holy shit.

MLIS sent an email mentioning metafilter.com from gmail to his AOL account, and got this back:
Date: Jun 20, 2005 12:32 PM
Subject: Delivery Status Notification (Failure)
To: [MLIS' gmail account]@gmail.com

This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification

Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:

[MLIS' aol name]@aol.com

Technical details of permanent failure:
PERM_FAILURE: SMTP Error (state 13): 554-: (HVU:B1)
http://postmaster.info.aol.com/errors/554hvub1.html
554 TRANSACTION FAILED

----- Original message -----

Received: by 10.54.114.6 with SMTP id m6mr2084639wrc;
Mon, 20 Jun 2005 09:32:23 -0700 (PDT)
Received: by 10.54.92.14 with HTTP; Mon, 20 Jun 2005 09:32:23 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <9 12b5efb05062009321ca86807@mail.gmail.com>
Date: Mon, 20 Jun 2005 12:32:23 -0400
From: MLIS
Reply-To: MLIS
To: MLIS
Subject: http://www.metafilter.com/
Mime-Version: 1.0

----- Message truncated -----
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:48 AM on June 20, 2005


MLIS' orginal message was just the full URL of metafilter in the body (it was truncated in the error message).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:51 AM on June 20, 2005


mathowie: you're elided MLIS's email address but are still showing a first name that is probably MLIS's in the quoted original message header.

As MLIS doesn't display a real name on MLIS's profile, MLIS may prefer a real name not be accidently shown here.
posted by orthogonality at 9:57 AM on June 20, 2005


So, uh, what does this mean?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:58 AM on June 20, 2005


I've had this happen trying to send MeFi links to AOL addresses too. That is, I've gotten the error message and the email hasn't gone through.
posted by dame at 10:02 AM on June 20, 2005


It means that AOL thinks that links in emails are advertising spam sites.

Probably because once too often, somebody forwarded a forwarded forward of a "Look at this cool site" email to an AOLer, and the AOLer wasn't sophisticated enough to understand that spam == UCE, not just anything annoying that Aunt Betsy forwarded to him.

(Probably it was a link to a Steve_at_Linnwood comment, forwarded with the introduction, "see this guy knows how to handle lub'ruls" sent by some bitter-ender Baptist great uncle to his gay, liberal, and computer-clueless AOLing nephew.)
posted by orthogonality at 10:08 AM on June 20, 2005


AOL is quite dickish about blacklisting stuff, I have found, in their futile efforts to battle spam. You have to get in touch with them and sorta beg/convince them your site is not a spam site and to undo the ban.

You can start the irritating process by emailing one of their catchall email address, like webmaster @ or legal @ and then going outside and standing still until vines grow over you. Wrench yourself free in about two weeks and check your email.
Then the real fun begins.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:22 AM on June 20, 2005


I changed MLIS's true name to his Metafilter name in mathowie's post, I'm not sure if it matters but there it is.
posted by jessamyn at 10:35 AM on June 20, 2005


I'm still confused. Has someone tried two emails, one with a link that DOES NOT contain a mefi url, and one that DOES? Best case would be between the same two email addresses, at nearly the same time.

It looks to me like we don't have a control message to judge this on.

The hypothesis is that this occurs when the email contains a link, and a metafilter link at that. So does it happen with the email does not contain a link?
posted by artlung at 10:44 AM on June 20, 2005


MLIS may prefer a real name not be accidently shown here.

Just wanted to repeat this in case matt didn't notice.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:45 AM on June 20, 2005


Damn, that was fast. Ignore previous post.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:46 AM on June 20, 2005


I guess MLIS, try emailing a link to yahoo.com to your AOL account, then try a mefi URL in a second message. See if they both bounce (indicating that AOL thinks a message with just a URL is spam) or just the MeFi one bounces (indicating that AOL thinks MeFi is a domain used by spammers).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:57 AM on June 20, 2005


I've done that before. The email without a link goes through.
posted by dame at 11:19 AM on June 20, 2005


I sent an email through gmail from a non-AOL computer to a screenname my Dad set up for me yonks ago on his AOL account. I got the bounce you got, mathowie.
posted by punilux at 11:19 AM on June 20, 2005


(The mail contained this random link. Must learn to finish thought before posting).
posted by punilux at 11:21 AM on June 20, 2005


it's because you don't support gitmo, matt.
posted by quonsar at 11:23 AM on June 20, 2005


http://www.schneier.com/blog/

http://www.cursor.org

In separate emails, in the subject line, went through without any delay.
posted by mlis at 11:24 AM on June 20, 2005


orthogonality: Seriously, what is your deal?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:25 AM on June 20, 2005


Steve_at_Linnwood writes "orthogonality: Seriously, what is your deal?"

Give me a break. I get to see this right after I defend you elsewhere? Yep, no good deed goes unpunished.
posted by orthogonality at 11:32 AM on June 20, 2005


Really, AOL just sucks for email. If you have friends on AOL and they hand you an email address, do what I do. Tell them you don't "do" AOL so they'll have to give you an email that isn't AOL, or their phone number.

If they're on AOL I just don't bother. There's a 99% chance they can't "do" the internet properly, anyways,

and My braiN.
hurts when i TRY to,

read, emails like. =
this. :-) :-( :-D B->

Pretend they don't exist. Problem solved.
posted by shepd at 11:59 AM on June 20, 2005


Ortho: I wish users would not bring personal vendettas into unrelated threads, it really poisons the site.
posted by LarryC at 12:01 PM on June 20, 2005


orthogonality : "Give me a break. I get to see this right after I defend you elsewhere? Yep, no good deed goes unpunished."

Well, you probably shouldn't have snarked S@L in this thread if you didn't want to see backsnark in this thread.
posted by Bugbread at 12:07 PM on June 20, 2005


. There's a 99% chance they can't "do" the internet properly, anyways,

cue keith mellis in 3, 2, 1...
posted by quonsar at 12:11 PM on June 20, 2005


FYI, when I was taking an adult ed. class, MeFi was blocked by whetever software or service they use.
posted by theora55 at 12:38 PM on June 20, 2005


A few people have emailed me. Any amount of text in an email, as long as it includes "metafilter.com" will bounce if sent to any @aol.com address. Crazy.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:59 PM on June 20, 2005


mathowie writes "A few people have emailed me. Any amount of text in an email, as long as it includes 'metafilter.com' will bounce if sent to any @aol.com address. Crazy."

Even if it's not an href in an html email?

You mean a plain text email that reads: "Hey, buddy, take a look at metafilter.com." will bounce?

And AOL wonders why they're laughed at.
posted by orthogonality at 1:17 PM on June 20, 2005


That is just nuts. As if we needed more proof that aol.com does indeed, suck.
posted by dabitch at 1:45 PM on June 20, 2005


I learned this some time ago. I have an older sister who is on AOL, and anytime I tried to send her links to Mefi, the e-mail wouldn't get through - I can't remember exactly, said there was some objectionable content. But I could e-mail her things without a mefi link.

I was insanely furious at the time and did some googling - seems it is so common for AOL to censor with their aggressive spam control that many merchants no longer want to do business with AOL people. They block entire ISPs, colleges, hurricane warnings, political content, you name it ... it's the norm. I made my sister get a yahoo address because I was so pissed at my mail being censored.
posted by madamjujujive at 1:47 PM on June 20, 2005


keith mellis can fix this.
posted by quonsar at 2:09 PM on June 20, 2005


Your powers of Summon Bligh are weak today, q.

(Though I'd like him to come by, if only so I can understand why you keep trying to summon him. Does he strongly dislike AOL, or strongly like them? Or lord forbid work for them?)
posted by Bugbread at 2:12 PM on June 20, 2005


Today I learned a new word. "Backsnark".
posted by blag at 2:14 PM on June 20, 2005


Even if it's not an href in an html email? You mean a plain text email that reads: "Hey, buddy, take a look at metafilter.com." will bounce?

In my experience mail clients can reformat text URLs in sent messages *as* hrefs. This is done on the fly, i.e. if you type text URL, the sender receives href (and this will be displayed as long as they have the HTML-formatted e-mail option enabled). Some kind of feature, I think.
posted by carter at 2:15 PM on June 20, 2005


carter : "In my experience mail clients can reformat text URLs in sent messages *as* hrefs. This is done on the fly"

True, but it isn't always done. So the text "metafilter.com" parsed by Outlook configured to automatically make html links will, of course, be bounced. The question is what will happen to mails parsed by mailers which either don't reparse text into links, or which do and which parsing is turned off, or which are sent as text instead of HTML mail.
posted by Bugbread at 2:19 PM on June 20, 2005


I know. It's a possible rather than a definitive explanation. Anyhoo: given that we're trying to carry out a controlled expt, the number of variables seems to growing (2 x 2 x 2 or something).

I don't know anyone w/ AOL, but if anyone has an AOL addy they're willing to post obfuscatorily, I'll send two control messages from Pine ... that should figure out if it's parsed as HTML on the way in, no?
posted by carter at 2:31 PM on June 20, 2005


bugbread writes "The question is what will happen to mails parsed by mailers which either don't reparse text into links, or which do and which parsing is turned off, or which are sent as text instead of HTML mail."


I tried it. As it happens, a plain text email (sent with Thunderbird 1.0.2) consisting only of "Hey Cherry, check out metafilter.com" bounced with the same error MLIS got.

Message source:
From - Mon Jun 20 17:02:53 2005
X-Mozilla-Status: 0001
X-Mozilla-Status2: 00000000
FCC: mailbox://ELIDED/Sent
X-Identity-Key: ELIDED
X-Account-Key: ELIDED
Date: Mon, 20 Jun 2005 17:02:53 -0400
From: ELIDED
X-Mozilla-Draft-Info: internal/draft; vcard=0; receipt=0; uuencode=0
User-Agent: Mozilla Thunderbird 1.0.2 (Windows/20050317)
X-Accept-Language: en-us, en
MIME-Version: 1.0
To: ELIDED
Subject: Test message
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

Hey Cherry, check out metafilter.com
posted by orthogonality at 2:37 PM on June 20, 2005


There are spam filters that will bounce email with any url if it is basically a single link message with a generic subject. So, there really needs to be some control if we are going to rely on this testing to condemn AOL (even though they do suck!). UofT for one...

One suggestion I have is that you should check the messages you are sending against several spam filters, to compare results. I would offer my mailbox as guinea pig, but I will be away for a few days so you won't be getting timely feedback from me.
posted by Chuckles at 4:24 PM on June 20, 2005


there really needs to be some control if we are going to rely on this testing to condemn AOL
We still need to do testing to confirm that AOL sucks? Boy, talk about slow learners.

Interesting issue, though - lots of luck getting it fixed and my guess is you probably have about as much chance of that as getting hotmail or yahoo to un-block Gmail invites.
posted by dg at 4:33 PM on June 20, 2005


Chuckles writes "There are spam filters that will bounce email with any url if it is basically a single link message with a generic subject. So, there really needs to be some control if we are going to rely on this testing to condemn AOL (even though they do suck!)."


OK, I copied the text of your comment and the following comment, and sent it to an AOL address.

It went through.

Then I changed the last character of the subject line, and added " metafilter.com" after the last sentence of your comment.

That bounced.


Here's the full source of the bounced message; the unbounced one substituted a question mark for the exclamation point in the subject, and did not contain the words "metafilter.com":
From - Mon Jun 20 19:53:53 2005
X-Mozilla-Status: 0001
X-Mozilla-Status2: 00800000
Message-ID: ELIDED
Date: ELIDED
From: ELIDED
User-Agent: Mozilla Thunderbird 1.0.2 (Windows/20050317)
X-Accept-Language: en-us, en
MIME-Version: 1.0
To: ELIDED
Subject: Where are all the people at!
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit



There are spam filters that will bounce email with any url if it is
basically a single link message with a generic subject. So, there
really needs to be some control if we are going to rely on this
testing to condemn AOL (even though they do suck!). UofT for one...

One suggestion I have is that you should check the messages you are
sending against several spam filters, to compare results. I would
offer my mailbox as guinea pig, but I will be away for a few days so
you won't be getting timely feedback from me. metafilter.com
posted by Chuckles (17Ker) at 4:24 PM PST on June 20 [!]


there really needs to be some control if we are going to rely on this
testing to condemn AOL
We still need to do testing to confirm that AOL sucks? Boy, talk about
slow learners.

Interesting issue, though - lots of luck getting it fixed and my guess
is you probably have about as much chance of that as getting hotmail
or yahoo to un-block Gmail invites.
posted by orthogonality at 4:48 PM on June 20, 2005


orthogonality, that is definitely an improvement I think. I'm still here for a few minutes, and my email is in my profile, if you want to try sending them through UofTs different but still irritating spam filter. I have a feeling that your test is pretty conclusive, but it is worth checking I guess...
posted by Chuckles at 5:02 PM on June 20, 2005


Ortho: I wish users would not bring personal vendettas into unrelated threads, it really poisons the site.
posted by LarryC at 12:01 PM PST on June 20 [!]

Posting about poison leaves a poisony aftertaste.
(this post should just barely whaft of poison)
posted by Balisong at 5:31 PM on June 20, 2005


my guess is you probably have about as much chance of that as getting hotmail or yahoo to un-block Gmail invites.- dg

I was able to recieve gmail invites at my hotmail addy. So I'm not sure what your point is.
posted by raedyn at 5:46 PM on June 20, 2005


Everyone I have tried to send Gmail invites to at either hotmail or yahoo has never received them and I have heard from many people who have seen the same thing, so I thought it was universally blocked. Perhaps I was wrong (again).
posted by dg at 6:05 PM on June 20, 2005


they tend to go to the yahoo and hotmail spam folders
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:22 PM on June 20, 2005


Chuckles writes "orthogonality, that is definitely an improvement I think. I'm still here for a few minutes, and my email is in my profile, if you want to try sending them through UofTs different but still irritating spam filter."

Sorry I probably missed you. But you can do this test at your convenience -- just send yourself email from a hotmail or yahoo account
posted by orthogonality at 8:47 PM on June 20, 2005


Yes, it's not just AOL. Someone once emailed me saying "blah, blah, blah, I really like your site", and I answered back "blah, blah, thanks, and if you liked that you would probably also really like xyzsite.com," and this was bounced - despite the fact that this person had written to me first, and my email info should presumably be some part of that person's contacts profile.

So some filters just seem to use a scorched earth strategy of spam control: "url included? Block it!".
posted by taz at 9:07 PM on June 20, 2005


Take it as a compliment Matt. Metafilter's image would only be sullied by evil AOL script kiddies anyways.
posted by sophist at 10:14 PM on June 20, 2005


Hi everyone - I'm bugsmom. I got a message posted on the blog that this had been fixed. Sorry to open the floodgates to the "evil AOL script kiddies" - I hadn't thought of that! I suppose some comfort can be taken in that odds are if they have AOL, they won't understand how to create an account anyway.
posted by TTNoelle at 1:33 PM on June 21, 2005


Hi, bugsmom.
posted by If I Had An Anus at 7:42 PM on June 21, 2005


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