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Group threatens to post AOL membership list

December 31, 1997

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A group that says it represents small Internet businesses has threatened to make public the e-mail addresses of 5 million America Online members if AOL continues to bar the businesses from pitching products to its subscribers.

The Chino, Calif.-based National Organization of Internet Commerce plans to post the e-mail addresses on the Internet on Jan. 8, Joe Melle, the group’s president, said Wednesday.

NOIC had initially threatened to post 1 million addresses, but decided to increase the number after Chantilly, Va.-based AOL threatened legal action.

AOL, the world’s largest Internet provider with 10 million members, reacted strongly to NOIC’s threat.

``We would avail ourselves of any legal remedies we need to protect our members ... from this threat,″ said AOL spokesman Rich D’Amato. ``We see this threat as some sort of cyber-terrorism.″

D’Amato said AOL members have made it clear ``they do not want junk e-mail.″

Melle said his company, TSF Marketing, collected the addresses from chat sites and other Internet locations used by AOL subscribers. NOIC was founded three months ago and has about a dozen members.

Melle said the choice of receiving the e-mail should be made by AOL members and not AOL.

``All we want from America Online is to sit at the table and talk to us,″ he said.

Melle said if the company bars access to its subscribers, his group would lose access to about half of all Internet users.

AOL has been waging a legal battle against companies that send unsolicited junk e-mail _ known as ``spam″ _ to its members.

Mass unsolicited e-mail makes up a significant portion of the 17 million e-mails that AOL handles daily. The mass e-mails often offer ways to lose weight, make money quickly or locate pornography, although Melle said his group bars porn merchants and get-rich-quick schemes.

AOL has won several injunctions again spam senders in recent months.

``A federal court has found there is no right to send AOL members unsolicited junk e-mail using AOL’s proprietary network,″ said D’Amato.

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