AOL intensifies fight against spam for users

America Online is providing better online tools and improving its automatic spam mail filters, in its fight against spam.

America Online is providing better online tools and improving its automatic spam mail filters, in its fight against spam.

In addition to the existing "Report Spam" button that customers can use to notify AOL of spam that gets through to their e-mail accounts, other antispam features will be unveiled in the coming months.

AOL said it would also continue to fight spammers in the courts, advocate for tougher federal and state legislation to fight spam and create a special antispam task force to find other ways to fight the problem.

AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said customers have identified spam as "their top concern" when using AOL and that the company was already working on a number of important initiatives, including upcoming software to block pop-up ads for users.

AOL has claimed  its existing proprietary antispam filtering methods block up to 780 million pieces of junk mail every day from reaching member e-mail in-boxes, which amounts to about 22 blocked spam e-mails per account each day.

AOL customers use the "Report Spam" button about 4.1 million times a day to report problem e-mail, which allows spam filters to be adjusted to staunch the flow of junk.

Jon Miller, chairman and chief executive officer of AOL, said, "As a member, and as a parent, I too have become outraged by the tide of spam that's drowning the legitimate e-mail I want to get. Spam is not only unwelcome on AOL, but unacceptable. We've declared spam to be public enemy number one on our service."

Eric Hemmendinger, an analyst at Aberdeen Group, said AOL has recently been rocked with huge revenue losses and an executive shake-up and wants to stabilise its membership.

"Making sure [members] don't get besieged by spam is probably a good place to start," he said. Dial-up users, who make up most of AOL's subscriber base, are even more hard hit by spam because it slows their access over phone lines by using up bandwidth.

Jeff Kagan, an independent IT industry analyst, said the increased efforts to fight spam on behalf of customers is a good strategy for AOL.

"The companies that can help their customers deal with the increased level of frustration are the companies that can retain their customers."

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