Hotmail Shuts Down Local Activist's E-mail Account

by Bronwyn Mauldin Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2002 at 9:43 AM

Hotmail shut down Frank Dorrel's email account without warning two weeks ago. He's still trying to find out why.

errorFrank Dorrell is a hard working peace activist. In fact, youve probably met him already.

If youve been to any anti-war rallies in the L.A. area since 9/11, or any of a number of activist events over the past two years, youve likely walked past a card table piled high with videotapes called, What Ive Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy. Franks not shy he probably stopped you asked you to buy one. This Veteran for Peace who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War wants you to learn what he's found out over the past several years about U.S. foreign policy.

If you want to get in touch with Frank these days, maybe to tell him how much you enjoyed the video you bought or to order one for a friend, dont try to e-mail him at his Hotmail account. Two weeks ago without any warning, Hotmail shut it down.

When they shut down his account, not only did he lose all his saved e-mails, he also lost an address book full of more than 800 addresses from people around the world who had contacted him about his video and the book hes publishing. To get enough disk space to keep all those addresses, Frank had just recently bought extra storage space from Hotmail. So the company shut down one of their few paying customers.

Why?

Depends whos asking.

On Monday, February 11, Frank tried to open his Hotmail account. A message telling him his account was closed popped up. So he opened a Yahoo account (fdorrel@yahoo.com) and e-mailed Hotmails help desk (support_x_en_vc@css.one.microsoft.com). Their answer, which arrived on Friday, went like this:

>Hello Frank,
>
>Thank you for writing to MSN Hotmail.
>
>We appreciate your bringing this matter to our attention.
>
>We have closed the account (fdorrel@hotmail.com) you reported in accordance with the Hotmail Terms of Use (TOU). It is a strict violation of the TOU for our members to send objectionable material of any kind or nature using our service.
>
>You can view our rules and regulations at: http://www.hotmail.msn.com/cgi->bin/dasp/hminfo_shell.asp?content=tos
>

Frank is a bit puzzled about what objectionable material he may have sent out. A lot of other people are concerned about this as well, and have been e-mailing Hotmail to find out why they shut down his account. Norman Solomon, who writes a nationally syndicated column on the media for the San Francisco Examiner heard the news, and he wrote to Hotmail on Monday, February 18, to find out what was going on. Hotmail was able to answer a syndicated columnist the same day:

>Hello Norman,
>
>Thank you for writing to MSN Hotmail.
>
>We appreciate the opportunity to assist you. The account (fdorrel@hotmail.com), that you are concern about has been closed in accordance with the Hotmail Terms of Service (TOS). We do not tolerate our members being the victims of unsolicited e-mail (aka "spam"). We are equally intolerant of Hotmail members sending junk e-mail. It is a strict violation of the TOS for our members to send objectionable material of any kind or nature using our service.
>
>You can view our rules and regulations at http://www.hotmail.msn.com/cgi-bin/dasp/hminfo_shell.asp?content=tos
>

So now they say Franks guilty of spamming. I wish Hotmail would be as efficient about shutting down the spammers who fill my inbox. Despite the policy they state in their message, Hotmail has been extremely tolerant of my being the victim of dozens of spams every single day.

Franks been trying to figure out what hes sent out that theyre calling spam. He regularly sends out e-mails to people he thinks might be interested in buying his video or the book hes publishing. He says that he sends it out to individuals who might be interested, though, not to large lists. And hes certainly doesnt have a machine trawling through the internet picking up everything with an @ sign in it.

Since its a machine at Hotmail that appears to be answering queries, I thought Id send a message, just to see which automated answer I could tickle. I was ready to lay odds it would start, Hello Bronwyn. Thank you for writing to MSN Hotmail. Sadly, its a week later now and Hotmail has chosen not to favor me with a reply.

The good news, Frank says, is that getting shut down by Hotmail has generated a lot of interest in his work. Hes been on KPFA, KPFK and several shows on other stations. His video and book are being used as fund drive premiums, and hes getting messages of support from around the country. And tons of requests are pouring in for his video and book. In a way they did me a favor because Im farther along now, he says.

So what is it that Franks up to, that people are so interested in?

First is the videotape he created. Its a compilation of ten segments by noted American figures including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Amy Goodman, Bill Moyers and S. Brian Willson, as well as excerpts from documentaries, all about U.S. foreign policy. The basic message of the video is that the U.S. is responsible for the deaths of millions of people in the third world, not to mention the poverty and oppression of millions more. We support, arm, and train dictators and militaries that do these evil actions to their own people. All of this is to ensure that we control the natural resources of these countries and their market place, use the people for cheap labor and keep the business of war (which is our biggest business) ongoing.

About three years ago Frank, who has never made a film or even studied filmmaking before, started pulling together what he considers some of the most compelling talks and documentaries on U.S. foreign policy that he had ever seen. The first cut ran to eight hours. He has since edited it down to two hours, and it was recently digitally re-mastered to improve the quality. He has been actively distributing the film for almost two years now.

Franks more recent project is re-publishing a book by Joel Andreas, who also lives here in L.A., called Addicted to War: Why the U.S. Cant Kick Militarism. Originally published in 1993 and now out of print, its 64 pages of easy-to-read cartoons, but also includes footnotes to explain the details. With Franks encouragement it has been revised to include 9/11, and is being reissued jointly by Frank and AK Press. Its been endorsed by Howard Zinn, Michael Parenti, Blase Bonpane, S. Brian Willson, Ed Asner, Casey Kasem, Susan Sarandon, Michael Ruppert, Martin Sheen and many others.

If you want to find out more about the video or the book, check out Franks website at http://www.addictedtowar.com. You can reach Frank directly at fdorrel@yahoo.com.

If you want to send an e-mail to Hotmail to ask them to explain their policies for shutting down their customers e-mail accounts without warning, theyre at support_x_en_vc@css.one.microsoft.com.

If youve had an e-mail account shut down and you think it was for activist activities, tell your story below. (But if youve had your account shut down for spamming the universe with porn, university degrees, or offers to help me get out of debt, keep your story to yourself.)

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