Sunday, June 1, 2008

Get lost, you stupid fool

I was looking over some old letters I sent, and I found this one I sent to AOL regarding a TOS violation I received for typing in a private IM to a man: "get lost you stupid fool."

The letter, probably from 2006:
I am a member of America Online. On the evening of March 15th, I was disconnected from the AOL service for a Terms of Service violation within an instant message. I followed the instructions on my screen and I called the Community Action Team at AOL customer service. A very polite representative explained the exact nature of my violation. He read to me what I had typed which resulted in the disconnection from the AOL service. I was astounded and argued the decision, but I went through the process he detailed and signed back on.
I also received an E-mail from the representative of the Community Action Team with whom I spoke. It contained the text of that exact phrase which resulted in my Terms of Service violation and temporary removal from the service. The comment for which I was removed was: “get lost you stupid fool.”
In fact, the entire IM contained only two lines:
SN 1: kisses
SN 2 (me): get lost you stupid fool
AOL’s Privacy Policy states:
"We do not read your private online communications. AOL honors the confidentiality of its members’ private communications in private chat rooms, e-mail (including downloads), and Instant Message™ conversations, as well as any profile data you may create, such as a stock portfolio. AOL does not read or disclose private communications except to comply with valid legal process such as a search warrant, subpoena or court order, to protect the company’s rights and property, or during emergencies when we believe physical safety is at risk. Of course, what you write or post in public or member chat rooms and message boards is available not only to AOL, but to all members."
After SN 1 reported the IM by activating the “notify AOL” button, the IM was read and the remark, "get lost you stupid fool," was evaluated. Then a subjective decision was made for a TOS violation. But, the comment was taken out of context in terms of the relationship and personal history of the two people involved in that IM. I can only speculate on the reasons why SN 1 reported my reply. But, it is absurd that the private IM comment “get lost you stupid fool” would be objective grounds for temporary disconnection from the service.
The content and dialogue in IMs is none of AOL's business unless a reply is egregiously inappropriate or I was using the service in an illegal manner. How is “get lost you stupid fool” serious enough to support a TOS violation?
AOL should have dismissed the report and not given it any attention or validity. I was informed the information regarding the incident would remain on my account. In my opinion, this was an error in judgement by those who make these TOS violation decisions and determine consequences. And it impacts AOL’s own privacy poilicy and speaks volumes about privacy on the internet.

and the addendum:
As a matter of fact, AOL has BUDDY ICONS in "WHAT'S HOT: CRAZY AND FUN SAYINGS." They say: “TAKE A HIKE” and “YOU ARE SUCH A JERK!”
If those Buddy Icon sayings, which are created by AOL, are acceptable... how is "get lost you stupid fool" a Terms of Service violation? I do not understand how AOL could support “get lost you stupid fool” as a reason for a TOS violation.

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